June 16/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani


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Bible Quotations
Love one another deeply from the heart. You have been born anew, not of perishable but of imperishable seed
First Letter of Peter 01/22-25: "Now that you have purified your souls by your obedience to the truth so that you have genuine mutual love, love one another deeply from the heart. You have been born anew, not of perishable but of imperishable seed, through the living and enduring word of God. For ‘All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord endures for ever.’ That word is the good news that was announced to you.""

Question: "Why is faith without works dead?"
Answer: James says, “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (James 2:26). Faith without works is a dead faith because the lack of works reveals an unchanged life or a spiritually dead heart. There are many verses that say that true saving faith will result in a transformed life, that faith is demonstrated by the works we do. How we live reveals what we believe and whether the faith we profess to have is a living faith.
James 2:14–26 is sometimes taken out of context in an attempt to create a works-based system of righteousness, but that is contrary to many other passages of Scripture. James is not saying that our works make us righteous before God but that real saving faith is demonstrated by good works. Works are not the cause of salvation; works are the evidence of salvation. Faith in Christ always results in good works. The person who claims to be a Christian but lives in willful disobedience to Christ has a false or dead faith and is not saved. Paul basically says the same thing in 1 Corinthians 6:9–10. James contrasts two different types of faith—true faith that saves and false faith that is dead.
Many profess to be Christians, but their lives and priorities indicate otherwise. Jesus put it this way: “By their fruits you will know them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? Just so, every good tree bears good fruit, and a rotten tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a rotten tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. So by their fruits you will know them. Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name? Did we not drive out demons in your name? Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?’ Then I will declare to them solemnly, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers’” (Matthew 7:16–23).
Notice that the message of Jesus is the same as the message of James. Obedience to God is the mark of true saving faith. James uses the examples of Abraham and Rahab to illustrate the obedience that accompanies salvation. Simply saying we believe in Jesus does not save us, nor does religious service. What saves us is the Holy Spirit’s regeneration of our hearts, and that regeneration will invariably be seen in a life of faith featuring ongoing obedience to God.
Misunderstanding the relationship of faith and works comes from not understanding what the Bible teaches about salvation. There are really two errors in regards to works and faith. The first error is “easy believism,” the teaching that, as long as a person prayed a prayer or said, “I believe in Jesus,” at some point in his life, then he is saved, no matter what. So a person who, as a child, raised his hand in a church service is considered saved, even though he has never shown any desire to walk with God since and is, in fact, living in blatant sin. This teaching, sometimes called “decisional regeneration,” is dangerous and deceptive. The idea that a profession of faith saves a person, even if he lives like the devil afterwards, assumes a new category of believer called the “carnal Christian.” This allows various ungodly lifestyles to be excused: a man may be an unrepentant adulterer, liar, or bank robber, but he’s saved; he’s just “carnal.” Yet, as we can see in James 2, an empty profession of faith—one that does not result in a life of obedience to Christ—is in reality a dead faith that cannot save.
The other error in regards to works and faith is to attempt to make works part of what justifies us before God. The mixture of works and faith to earn salvation is totally contrary to what Scripture teaches. Romans 4:5 says, “To him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness.” James 2:26 says, “Faith without works is dead.” There is no conflict between these two passages. We are justified by grace through faith, and the natural result of faith in the heart is works that all can see. The works that follow salvation do not make us righteous before God; they simply flow from the regenerated heart as naturally as water flows from a spring.
Salvation is a sovereign act of God whereby an unregenerate sinner has the “washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit” poured out on him (Titus 3:5), thereby causing him to be born again (John 3:3). When this happens, God gives the forgiven sinner a new heart and puts a new spirit within him (Ezekiel 36:26). God removes his sin-hardened heart of stone and fills him with the Holy Spirit. The Spirit then causes the saved person to walk in obedience to God’s Word (Ezekiel 36:26–27).
Faith without works is dead because it reveals a heart that has not been transformed by God. When we have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit, our lives will demonstrate that new life. Our works will be characterized by obedience to God. Unseen faith will become seen by the production of the fruit of the Spirit in our lives (Galatians 5:22). Christians belong to Christ, the Good Shepherd. As His sheep we hear His voice and follow Him (John 10:26–30).
Faith without works is dead because faith results in a new creation, not a repetition of the same old patterns of sinful behavior. As Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”Faith without works is dead because it comes from a heart that has not been regenerated by God. Empty professions of faith have no power to change lives. Those who pay lip service to faith but who do not possess the Spirit will hear Christ Himself say to them, “I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers” (Matthew 7:23).

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on June 15-16/18
Our Minister of Foreign Affairs hit all times record/Khalil Helou/Face Book/June 15/18
Report: Hezbollah refused Russian demand to leave south Syria/Liad Osmo/Ynetnews/June 15/18
Interview with Daniel Pipes: U.S. Embassy Move May Bring Regrets/Canadian Jewish News/June 15/18
The Turkish Race/Amir Taheri/Asharq Al-Awsat/June 15/18
Like it or Not, Singapore Summit was a Success/Joseph Detran/Cipher/June 15/18
Refugees and the Arab States - Part Three/Denis MacEoin/Gatestone Institute/June 15/18
Who Sanctions Russia? Not Germany./Shoshana Bryen and Stephen Bryen/Gatestone Institute/June 15/18
Sweden: "It's Fun to Build a Mosque"/Judith Bergman/Gatestone Institute/June 15/18
Does the World Need Another Megadeal/Brooke Sutherland/Bloomberg View/June, 15/18
Why Economists Avoid Discussing Inequality/Noah Smith/Bloomberg View/June, 15/18
Iran continues to reap benefits of opportunism and division/Sir John Jenkins/Arab News/June 15/18
Can Turkish-Iranian cooperation work against PKK?/Sinem Cengiz//Arab News/June 15/18
Senior Iraqi legislators turn against the parliament/Adnan Hussein/Al Arabiya/June 15/18
Is it a case of now or never for Pakistan’s Imran Khan?/Syed Jawaid Iqbal/Al Arabiya/June 15/18
Israel, Jordan fear escalation as Russia seeks provincial division in Syria/Shehab Al-Makahleh/Al Arabiya/June 15/18
Using soft power to isolate Iran supporters/Mohammed Al Shaikh/Al Arabiya/June 15/18

Titles For The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on June 15-16/18
Our Minister of Foreign Affairs hit all times record
Mufti Daryan Slams FPM over Citizenship Decree, Attacks on U.N.
Jumblat Says Aoun's Tenure a 'Failure', FPM Hits Back
Jreissati: Jumblat Attack on President Term after Return from KSA Suspicious
Berri Says Talk of Imminent Govt. Formation 'Totally Inaccurate'
Lebanon’s Government Formation Faces 3 Obstacles
Lebanon: Western Dismay on Refugee Policy, Foreign Ministry Retreats with Conditions
Joumblatt calls out FPM's "racist campaign against refugees"
Return of Syria refugees now possible, says Aoun
Report: Hezbollah refused Russian demand to leave south Syria

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on June 15-16/18
Rouhani Criticizes Iranians’ Recourse to Foreign Media
Netanyahu Accuses Iran of Stoking Sectarianism in Syria
Israeli Intelligence: Trump's Actions Will Cause Significant Damage to Iran
Assad: We Need Iran, ‘Hezbollah’ for a Long Time
Assad in Rare Appearance outside Capital
EU's Top Court Upholds Asset Freeze for Makhlouf
Afghanistan Says US Drone Kills Pakistan Taliban Chief
Jordan withdraws ambassador from Iran: Source tells Al Arabiya English
PA Suppresses Peaceful Demonstrators in Ramallah
Egypt: Key Cabinet Posts Reshuffled, Including Defense and Interior
Coalition Forces Near Hodeidah Airport as Houthis Suffer Losses
Arab Commitment to Back Yemen, as League Condemns Houthis
U.N.: Parts of Yemen Missiles Fired at KSA were Iranian-Made
U.N. Calls for Yemen Port to be Kept Open despite Offensive
Israel Ministry Report Shows Concern over Trump's N. Korea Summit
Trump Announces Tariffs on $50 Billion in Chinese Imports
Migrant Crisis on the Menu as Macron Meets Italian Leader
Poll: In Merkel Migrant Row, Germans Back Tough Policies
Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on June 15-16/18
Our Minister of Foreign Affairs hit all times record
Khalil Helou/Face Book/June 15/18
Our Minister of Foreign Affairs hit all times record all categories by alienating Lebanon against the Arab world, European countries and the United States of America. Furthermore, our relations with Russia are not culminating high. Never in the history of modern Lebanon we went into such a bad situation, creating xenophobic feelings among our public, based on false allegations and lies. Our foreign affairs minister is blaming western countries for Syrian refugees crisis, accusing westerners of willing to settle refugees in Lebanon, turning a blind eye on Syrian regime, the real and unique responsible for the refugees crisis. We have never had such a bad diplomacy, knowing that our major financial resources come from our emigrates in Arab world, and our major military support comes from western countries, and that foreign friends of our minister never helped :Lebanon neither financially nor militarily. Never in our history we have had such a military support from westerners, especially the USA, that is rewarded by the ungratefulness of our FA minister. Very bad ... he doesn't represent me anyway.
Mufti Daryan Slams FPM over Citizenship Decree, Attacks on U.N.
Naharnet/June 15/18/Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Latif Daryan on Friday blasted the Free Patriotic Movement, without naming it, over its calls for returning Syrian refugees to their country and a controversial decree granting citizenship to dozens of Arabs and foreigners. Syrian refugees “were forced, through bombardment and several years of siege, to leave the homeland in which they lived for hundreds of years. They are facing the threat of being prevented from returning and the threat of continued shelling and killing,” Daryan said in his Eid al-Fitr sermon. Apparently referring to the FPM and its officials, the mufti added: “People among us are saying that they are fed up with those who were forced to flee to Lebanon, seeking to give the false impression that the party that displaced them now wants to return them.”“They're claiming that what's preventing this (return) is the international community, which is offering the minimum help to these aggrieved (refugees) in anticipation of salvation from this tragic situation,” Daryan went on to say. He added: “How can an individual or a party decide over such a dangerous issue, as if there is no longer a government with a unified policy towards the country and the world?” Daryan lamented that this gives the impression that “every sect now has its own statelet, army and policy which it can impose on others whenever it wants.”“The policies of discrimination and segregation have been aggravating since a while now... and there are efforts to expel these aggrieved people to the same fate that they escaped from. At the same time hundreds of people are being randomly naturalized, which reflects the presence of double standards,” the mufti added. He pointed out that instead of “naturalization and accusations against the international community, those who have demands over shares should end their selfishness and cooperate with the premier-designate in order to finalize the cabinet line-up.”

Jumblat Says Aoun's Tenure a 'Failure', FPM Hits Back
Naharnet/June 15/18/Several Free Patriotic Movement ministers and MPs responded fiercely Friday after Druze leader Walid Jumblat said the tenure of President Michel Aoun has been a "failure." "Our tragedy is a presidential tenure that has been a failure since its first moment," Jumblat tweeted. His tweet is linked to the latest row over Syrian refugees and the calls for returning them to their country. "The displaced of the earth enjoy neither Eid nor rest. Death haunts them in seas and deserts... They flee tyranny and wars for a better life only to be faced with the walls of hatred and racism that are getting higher everywhere," Jumblat said. He added: "In Lebanon they are calling for handing them over to the executioner under the excuse of the bad situations and our tragedy is a presidential tenure that has been a failure since its first moment." Caretaker Energy Minister Cesar Abi Khalil of the FPM was quick to snap back. "This presidential tenure has achieved in one year what all the previous terms had failed to achieve and you were a key component of those tenures," Abi Khalil tweeted, addressing Jumblat. "The Lebanese are witnesses to your failure and corruption in all the files you handled. It is our destiny and commitment to fix what you ruined," the minister added.

Jreissati: Jumblat Attack on President Term after Return from KSA Suspicious
Naharnet/June 15/18/Caretaker Justice Minister Salim Jreissati on Friday described as “suspicious” the timing of Druze leader Walid Jumblat's criticism of President Michel Aoun's tenure. “Your attack on the president's term immediately after your return from the kingdom (of Saudi Arabia) is suspicious,” Jreissati said, addressing Jumblat. “Why are you trying to implicate the kingdom by hinting that you are carrying out a futile diktat against a tenure whose master is beyond your reach and the reach of your cronies,” Jreissati added. “The President had described you on Sep. 26, 1997, so check the archives,” the minister went on to say. And describing Jumblat's son and apparent political heir MP Taymour Jumblat as a “promising” politician, Jreissati accused Jumblat of endorsing and “betting” on “the heavy Syrian presence on our soil.”Earlier in the day, Jumblat had slammed Aoun's tenure as a “failure” against the backdrop of a row over Syrian refugees and calls for returning them to Syria.

Berri Says Talk of Imminent Govt. Formation 'Totally Inaccurate'

Naharnet/June 15/18/Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri has dismissed reports claiming that the new government will be formed soon as “inaccurate.”“All the talk and rumors about an imminent government formation are totally inaccurate,” Berri's visitors quoted him as saying in remarks published Friday by al-Anwar daily. Berri also denied that the cabinet formation process has reached the stage of distributing ministerial portfolios, noting that statements in this regard are mere “wishes.” “Things are still at the beginning and there is nothing serious regarding the government,” the Speaker added, revealing that “the President has not yet received any cabinet line-up.”
Lebanon’s Government Formation Faces 3 Obstacles
Beirut - Youssef Diab/Asharq Al Awsat/Friday, 15 June, 2018
Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri has so far failed to reach a breakthrough in the cabinet lineup as political parties held onto their stances in having wider representation in the new government. Asharq Al-Awsat learned on Thursday that the cabinet formation is facing three key obstacles that are unlikely to be resolved in the near future. “The first lies on the Christian representation amid a dispute between the Lebanese Forces and the Free Patriotic Movement after FPM leader Jebran Bassil rejected offering the LF four ministries in the new government,” the sources explained. The second problem lies in the PM’s insistence to stop the March 8 coalition from having a Sunni representative in the cabinet. The sources said the portfolios allocated to the Druze ministers were the third and major obstacle hindering the government formation process.
“The Progressive Socialist Party insists on appointing the three Druze ministers, refusing to allow MP Talal Arslan a share in the new cabinet,” they said. The Shiite representation in the government was kept outside the cabinet formation tension, after an agreement reached between the Amal Movement and “Hezbollah” to have an equal share of seats. Meanwhile, sources close to Baabda Palace denied reports that President Michel Aoun had rejected an initial cabinet lineup offered by Hariri during a meeting last Tuesday. “The President neither rejected nor accepted a draft government lineup because, in the first place, he hasn’t received any,” the sources said. Presidential Palace sources downplayed reports about key obstacles to the mission of the PM-designate. Discussions among key political parties regarding the government lineup entered a serious phase in the past hours, sources close to Hariri said. “Hariri already completed 90 percent of his government’s shape, with only few details awaiting amendment,” the sources said.

Lebanon: Western Dismay on Refugee Policy, Foreign Ministry Retreats with Conditions

Beirut- Asharq Al Awsat/Friday, 15 June, 2018/Lebanon expressed a conditional readiness to lift the measures taken by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs against the UNHCR staff, in light of European pressure and resentment of the Lebanese rhetoric, “which accuses the Europeans of working to settle the refugees in Lebanon.” German Ambassador to Lebanon Martin Huth said the international community was “dismayed by repeated false accusations” that it is working to settle Syrian refugees in Lebanon. This came after caretaker Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil accused the UNHCR and the international community of preventing the return of Syrian refugees to their country. Sources close to the matter told Asharq Al-Awsat that there was an “international consensus to denounce the language of the Lebanese State on resettlement,” adding that “settling the displaced is out of the question.” The sources also highlighted a “total rejection of any organized return in large numbers,” describing it as an “illusion” at the current stage. They added that the British and US positions “are the most stringent in this regard.” Meanwhile, Bassil showed a conditional willingness to backtrack on his actions towards UNHCR. He told UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi in Geneva on Thursday that he was ready to lift the initial actions taken against UNHCR if he saw a change in the policy adopted, and was ready to increase it in the absence of any change. Last week, Bassil ordered a freeze on the renewal of UNHCR staff residency permits until further notice, claiming that the agency had scared refugees away from returning to Syria through a series of warnings and threats. “I am willing to lift the foreign ministry’s measures against UNHCR if I see a change in its policy and I'm ready to increase them should there be no change,” Bassil said in Geneva. “Preventing the early return of refugees to their country is a rejected policy and we’re not asking the agency to encourage Syrians to return; we are rather asking it not to scare them of returning,” the caretaker minister added.

Joumblatt calls out FPM's "racist campaign against refugees"
Georgi Azar/Annahar/June15/18/Joumblatt took to Twitter to blast the FPM's "racist campaign against refugees, who are being sent back to face execution at the hands of Assad,"
BEIRUT: The rift between Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Joumblatt and the Free Patriotic Movement escalated Friday after the former MP took a swipe at the FPM by labelling President Michel Aoun's tenure as a "failure" for blaming his presidency's shortcomings on the plight of Syrian refugees. Joumblatt took to Twitter to blast the FPM's "racist campaign against refugees, who are being sent back to face execution at the hands of" Assad, maintaining that "refugees are being blamed for the dire state of the country but our disaster lies in a failed Aoun tenure since the beginning."
Return of Syria refugees now possible, says Aoun
Gulf News/June 15/2018 /UN official says he is not opposed to voluntary returns but current conditions in Syria are not promising.
Beirut: Lebanese President Michel Aoun said on Thursday refugees in Lebanon could begin a phased return to areas of Syria that have become safe, and that should happen before a political solution is reached for the conflict. “Lebanon considers that a return has become possible in stages to areas that have become safe and stable in Syria, which are five times the size of Lebanon. Most displaced people in Lebanon are from these areas which have become secure,” Aoun said on his Twitter page, in remarks to the ambassadors from the countries in the International Support Group for Lebanon. As Syrian forces and their allies retake more territory, Lebanon’s president and other politicians have increasingly called for refugees to go back to areas where fighting is over before a deal is reached to end the war. The international view is that it would not be safe for them to return yet. “Political commitments change with developments on the ground, making us unable to wait for a political solution to the Syrian crisis before the displaced start to return,” he said. The UN. has registered about a million refugees in Lebanon - nearly a quarter of Lebanon’s population. The Lebanese government, which puts the figure at 1.5 million, says their presence has strained public services and suppressed economic growth. Lebanese Foreign Minister Jibran Bassil in the past week has escalated a row with the United Nation’s refugee agency UNHCR, accusing it of working to stop refugees from returning to Syria . UNHCR has denied the accusations, saying it supports the return of refugees when it is safe for them to go back to Syria and that it helps those who choose to return with their documentation. Martin Huth, the German envoy, told Reuters in an emailed statement that the international community was “fully aware of the heavy burden Lebanon is bearing”. “Many of us are doing all we can to alleviate the situation,” Huth said, citing aid and commitments made to Lebanon through donor conferences and UN agencies. He said the international community and the United Nations were “fully committed to an eventual return of refugees to Syria”. “At the same time, and while we do not oppose voluntary returns to Syria, conditions in that country, in our view, do not allow for a general and comprehensive return of refugees at this time,” he added. In May, Aoun said UN and EU comments pointed to “a disguised settlement (of refugees in Lebanon) that contradicts our constitution and sovereignty”.

Report: Hezbollah refused Russian demand to leave south Syria
هاررتس/حزب الله رفض طلب روسي الإنسحاب من جنوب سوريا

Liad Osmo/Ynetnews/June 15/18
Syrian human rights monitoring group claims Kremlin asked the terror group to vacate its forces from its war-torn client state’s border near Lebanon, but that no rift ensued as a result; report comes day after Syria's Assad said 'Hezbollah is a basic element in this war.'A Syrian human rights monitoring group reported on Thursday that the Hezbollah terror group’s leadership has refused to accede to a Russian request that its forces vacate a number of locations in southwest Syria near the Lebanese border. Moscow, which has served as Syrian President Bashar Assad’s chief patron in the war-ravaged country, reportedly demanded that the terror group withdraw from the southern and western suburbs in the Homs locality and the Lebanese vicinity as part of a wider effort to return Russian troops back to certain positions in the area away from Hezbollah. Despite the refusal, no dispute or fraying of relations were detailed in the report. The rights group said that Hezbollah is sporadically “renewing its ranks” in military posts straddling the Syrian-Lebanese border, serving as proof that it has no intention to evacuate the area.
One of the locations in which the Shi’ite terror group plans to maintain its presence is the western Syrian city of Al-Qusayr, 35 kilometers south of Homs. Last month, a Hezbollah airfield in the area was bombed in a strike that was widely attributed to the Israel Air Force.
In May, Arab news outlets, including the Syrian rights organization, reported that Russian forces had withdrawn from the Homs vicinity and would soon be replaced by Assad’s army. No indication, however, was mentioned in the report that the Russian withdrawal has yet been implemented.
The Kremlin is currently in the midst of a tense relationship with Iran and its proxy Hezbollah over their presence in Syria, a reality which Israel has repeatedly raised concerns over and stated that it will employ all means necessary to flush them out of the country.
Concerned that Hezbollah will eventually use Syrian soil as a launchpad from which to unleash its aggressive designs on Israel, Jerusalem has urged the Russians to reign in the terror group and remove them from the border.
Following Israel’s exhortations, Russia announced its position that military presence in southern Syria should be restricted exclusively to Assad’s army.
A feud erupted shortly after between Russia and Iran and Hezbollah, with the two complaining that the declared new position was not coordinated with them first.
Assad said on Wednesday Iran does not have any military bases in Syria, unlike Russia, but added that if there is "a need for Iranian military bases, we will not hesitate."
Speaking in an interview with Iranian channel al-Alam News published in an English translation by Syrian state news agency SANA, Assad said his Syrian troops are supported by fighters from Iraq, Iran and Lebanon.
When asked if he had asked Lebanese Shi'ite Muslim group Hezbollah to leave Syria, Assad said the group would remain until "Hezbollah, Iran, or others believe that terrorism has been eliminated".
"Hezbollah is a basic element in this war—the battle is long, and the need for these military forces will continue for a long time," he said. “When Hezbollah or Iran are satisfied that we have destroyed the terror, they will tell us: ‘We want to return to our countries.’
Secretary-General of Hezbollah Hassan Nasrallah said on Friday that his organization will remain in Syria as long as Syrian President Bashar Assad wants it there, defying renewed US and Israeli pressure to force Tehran and its allies to quit the country.
"I will tell you that if the whole world comes together to force us to leave Syria, they will not be able to evict us," Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said in a televised address to hundreds of supporters who gathered in the village of Maroun el-Ras on Lebanon's border with Israel to mark Jerusalem Day.
He added that only the Syrian leadership could ask them to leave.
Reuters contributed to this report.,7340,L-5287153,00.html

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on June 15-16/18
Rouhani Criticizes Iranians’ Recourse to Foreign Media
London - Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 15 June, 2018/Iranian President Hassan Rouhani accused foreign media of being behind popular discontent over the deteriorating economic situation. Speaking during a meeting with a number of Iranian media officials, Rouhani highlighted Iranian citizens’ distancing from the local media and their preference for foreign information. Rouhani admitted that the internal media was no longer a source of information for the Iranians, and said: “There are few countries whose people are interested in foreign media, such as Iran.” “The media has a heavier responsibility today and I hope that this meeting serves as a good start for collective cooperation in consolidation of national interests,” he stated during the meeting. The Iranian presidency website quoted Rouhani as saying: “The fundamental problem of the regime in Iran is not the economic, cultural and security problems, but the problem of psychological warfare.”The president defended the nuclear agreement and played down the US withdrawal. He noted that the JCPOA has removed Iran from Chapter VII without facing a war.He also emphasized that the United Nations acknowledged Iran’s right to enrich uranium.

Netanyahu Accuses Iran of Stoking Sectarianism in Syria
Asharq Al-Awsat/5 June, 2018/Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Iranian-backed militias in Syria of fueling sectarian tensions and divisions in the war-torn country. Netanyahu accused Iran of bringing in 80,000 Shiite fighters from countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan to mount attacks against Israel and “convert” Syria’s Sunni majority. “That is a recipe for a re-inflammation of another civil war - I should say a theological war, a religious war - and the sparks of that could be millions more that go into Europe and so on ... And that would cause endless upheaval and terrorism in many, many countries,” Netanyahu told an international security forum. “Obviously we are not going to let them do it. We’ll fight them. By preventing that - and we have bombed the bases of this, these Shiite militias - by preventing that, we are also offering, helping the security of your countries, the security of the world.” he stated without elaborating. About half Syria’s pre-war 22 million population has been displaced by the fighting, with hundreds of thousands of refugees making it to Europe. Syria’s population is mostly Sunni Muslim. Regime leader Bashar Assad is from the Alawite religious minority, often considered an offshoot of Shiite Islam. Under recent deals between Assad’s regime and mainly Sunni rebels, insurgents have left long-besieged areas sometimes in exchange for Shiite residents moving from villages surrounded by insurgents. The political opposition to Assad says the deals amount to forced demographic change and deliberate displacement of his enemies away from the main cities of western Syria. The regime says the deals allow it to take back control and to restore services in the wrecked towns. Last week, Netanyahu warned that Iran’s meddling in the Middle East could lead to a new massive wave of refugees headed to Europe. Netanyahu charged that Tehran has been able to bankroll a growing military presence in countries such as Syria and Yemen because sanctions had been lifted in exchange for its halt in nuclear enrichment activities. Iran wants to "basically conduct a religious campaign in largely Sunni Syria but try to convert Sunnis," he said after holding talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Israeli Intelligence: Trump's Actions Will Cause Significant Damage to Iran
Tel Aviv – Nazir Majali/Asharq Al-Awsat/5 June, 2018/ The Israeli military intelligence services issued a confidential report on the repercussions of US President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. Submitted to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, the report said that "the serial and cumulative reaction on Trump's decision to withdraw from the nuclear deal has gained more importance than expected in Iran in many fields, mainly due to its extensive economic and social damage.”Trump withdrew from the deal in May, threatening at the same time to reinstate harsh sanctions against the Iranian oil industry and foreign firms that trade with it. “These steps are supposed to go into full effect at the beginning of November. Some American companies, among them airplane manufacturer Boeing and General Electric, which signed contracts to supply equipment to Iran’s outdated oil industry, are already preparing to halt their investments in the country,” the report said. Sports equipment maker Nike canceled at the last minute a delivery of football cleats to the Iranian national squad, which is participating in the World Cup starting Thursday in Russia. In Europe, British Petroleum announced that it would end its investment partnership with the Iranian oil company in deep-sea drilling off the Scottish coast. In a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron last week, Netanyahu said that he did not ask France to withdraw from Iran deal because he thinks “it will be dissolved by the weight of economic forces.”“This is the right time to exert maximum pressure on Iran” in order for the latter to leave Syria, said Netanyahu. In this context, ministers from Britain, France, Germany and the European Union sent a letter at the beginning of June to Trump administration cabinet members, in which they asked the United States to exempt energy, aviation and health companies from the secondary American sanctions – which target European companies trading with Iran. European giant Airbus signed contracts worth one billion dollars with Iran after the nuclear deal was signed in 2015. Another large European company liable to be hurt by the sanctions is French energy company Total. According to Israeli intelligence, Iran had hoped to reap sizable profits from deals with European and American companies during the coming period. Now, however, the Tehran regime faces abandonment by companies that already signed contracts, in addition to the negotiations with other companies, because of the American move. Internal pressure on the regime, in the form of frequent demonstrations by the opposition in cities across the country, is also coming into play. Most of the demonstrations focus on the cost of living, the Israeli report noted. Israeli intelligence officials have the impression that doubled economic pressure, domestically and from abroad, is accelerating divisions at the top of the Iranian regime between the conservative camp and the more moderate one. Part of the dispute involves the question of Iranian foreign aid to terrorist organizations across the Middle East. According to various assessments, Tehran disburses nearly one billion dollars annually to these clients, including “Hezbollah”, Shiite militias fighting on its behalf for the Assad regime in Syria, Houthi rebels in Yemen and two Palestinian organizations in the Gaza Strip, Hamas and Jihad.
Assad: We Need Iran, ‘Hezbollah’ for a Long Time
Beirut - London - Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 15 June, 2018/The head of the Syrian regime, Bashar al-Assad, has said that the need for Iran and “Hezbollah” will continue for a long time as gunmen assassinated a member of a committee charged with negotiating with Syria's regime the fate of Daraa. "At dawn, armed assailants killed a doctor who is part of the Daraa reconciliation committee," said on Thursday the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, adding the attack took place in a rebel village in the northwest of the province. Another 11 committee members have been killed by unidentified assailants since the end of May, said Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman. The killings come as regime ally Russia holds talks with regional powers to sort out the future of the region bordering Jordan and the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights, and attempt to avoid a regime military operation. "We are giving the political process a chance. If that doesn't succeed, we have no other option but to liberate it by force," Assad said in an interview with Iranian channel al-Alam News. In response to a question whether he had asked “Hezbollah” to leave Syria, Assad said the group would remain until "Hezbollah, Iran, or others believe that terrorism has been eliminated". "Hezbollah is a basic element in this war - the battle is long, and the need for these military forces will continue for a long time," he added.
Assad in Rare Appearance outside Capital
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/June 15/18/ Syrian President Bashar al-Assad attended a mosque in the country's west on Friday for prayers marking the end of Ramadan, in a rare appearance outside Damascus, images on his social media showed. "President Assad performs the Eid al-Fitr prayer at the Sayyida Khadija mosque in the city of Tartus," a caption read, referring to the feast marking the close of the Islamic holy month. In one picture, he was seen praying alongside the country's top Muslim cleric and its Islamic endowments minister. Another image showed him surrounded by dozens of worshipers who appeared to be offering him Eid greetings. Assad has rarely appeared in public outside Damascus since Syria's conflict broke out more than six years ago. He led Eid al-Fitr prayers in the central city of Hama last year, his first public appearance in Syria outside the capital since the same festival in 2016. The coastal city of Tartus is the site of a naval base belonging to Assad's key backer Russia, which has helped his forces retake swathes of opposition-held territory. Like neighboring Latakia province, from which Assad's clan hails, Tartus is a stronghold of his Alawite sect. The region has largely escaped the destruction that has blighted other areas of Syria but it has suffered a heavy human toll from military service in the conflict that has killed 350,000 people since 2011. The war began with anti-government protests that were violently repressed by security forces. Russian and Iranian-backed regime forces now control around 60 percent of Syrian territory.

EU's Top Court Upholds Asset Freeze for Makhlouf
Luxembourg - London - Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 15 June, 2018/The European Union's top court has upheld an asset freeze for a cousin of the head of the Syrian regime, Bashar al-Assad, saying the European Union had shown him to be linked to the regime. In 2011, the EU included businessman Rami Makhlouf, a cousin of Assad, on a list of people to be hit with asset freezes and a travel ban because of the regime's actions in the country's civil war. Makhlouf had fought the asset freeze for the period of May 29, 2016 to May 31, 2017 at the EU's General Court, which rejected his claim. He later appealed that decision. "The Court dismisses Mr. Makhlouf's appeal and thus confirms that the restrictive measures against him must be maintained for the period 2016-2017," the European Court of Justice said Thursday. It added the EU had shown him to be associated with and providing support for the Syrian regime.

Afghanistan Says US Drone Kills Pakistan Taliban Chief
Kabul- Asharq Al Awsat/Friday, 15 June, 2018/The Afghan Defense Ministry said on Friday that Pakistani Taliban leader Mullah Fazlullah has been killed in a US-Afghan air strike in Afghanistan, a killing likely to ease tension between the United States and Pakistan. An official at the NATO-led Resolute Support mission confirmed Fazlullah was killed on Thursday. The US military said earlier in Washington it had carried out a strike aimed at a senior militant figure in the eastern Afghan province of Kunar, which is on the Pakistani border, and one US official said the target was believed to have been Fazlullah.
Fazlullah was Pakistan's most-wanted militant, notorious for attacks including a 2014 school massacre that killed 132 children and the 2012 shooting of schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai, who was later awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. "I confirm that Mullah Fazlullah, leader of the Pakistani Taliban, has been killed in a joint air operation in the border area of Marawera district of Kunar province," Mohammad Radmanish, spokesman for Afghan defense ministry, told Reuters, adding the air strike was carried out at about 9 a.m. on Thursday. US Forces-Afghanistan spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Martin O'Donnell said US forces conducted a "counterterrorism strike" which targeted "a senior leader of a designated terrorist organization". "US Forces-Afghanistan and NATO-led Resolute Support forces continue to adhere to ... Afghanistan's unilateral ceasefire with the Afghan Taliban," O'Donnell said. The government announced the ceasefire last week and it took effect this week. " previously stated, the ceasefire does not include US counterterrorism efforts against (ISIS and al Qaeda) and other regional and international terrorist groups, or the inherent right of US and international forces to defend ourselves if attacked. "We hope this pause leads to dialogue and progress on reconciliation and a lasting end to hostilities." Afghan President Ashraf Ghani announced a ceasefire lasting until June 20 but on Friday suggested it could be extended. Fazlullah's death could ease strained ties between Islamabad and Washington even as Afghanistan observes an unprecedented three-day ceasefire with the larger Afghan Taliban. Pakistan is considered key to persuading Afghan Taliban leaders, who Washington believes shelter on Pakistani soil, to open negotiations to end the 17-year-old war in Afghanistan. In March, the United States offered a $5 million reward for information on Fazlullah. Fazlullah emerged as an extremist leader in the Swat Valley, northwest of the Pakistani capital of Islamabad, more than a decade ago. He was known as "Mullah Radio" for his fiery sermons broadcast over a radio channel. Mullah Radio was designated a global terrorist by the United States and carried a bounty of $5 million. He had been on the run since his loyalists were routed in a major military operation in Swat district of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa in 2009. He was reviled in Pakistan for the 2014 assault on an army-run school in the city of Peshawar in which Pakistani Taliban gunmen killed at least 132 children. He is also believed to have ordered the 2012 shooting of then-15-year-old Malala Yousafzai over her advocacy of girls' education. The Pakistani Taliban have waged a decade-long insurgency seeking to establish a harsh interpretation of Islamic rule but most of their fighters have now fled to Afghanistan. They are separate from the Afghan Taliban who ruled Afghanistan for five years before being ousted in a 2001 US-led military action. Washington and Kabul accuse Pakistan of harbouring Afghan Taliban and the allied Haqqani network, which Islamabad denies. Islamabad says the Pakistani Taliban maintain sanctuaries in Afghanistan.

Jordan withdraws ambassador from Iran: Source tells Al Arabiya English

Faisal Al-Shammeri Special to Al Arabiya English/Friday, 15 June 2018/A high-ranking Jordanian source told Al on Friday that Jordan transferred its ambassador Abdullah Abu Rumman from Iran to the Jordanian Foreign Ministry headquarters in Amman based on a decision by the Jordanian cabinet. “There is no intention to name another Jordanian envoy in Tehran at the time,” the source told Al Commenting on the decision’s circumstances, the source reiterated: “Jordan’s fixed position from Iranian policies which include interfering in the affairs of the region’s countries,” and voiced Jordan’s concern over “the security of the region’s countries particularly of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Cooperation Council countries.”“Saudi Arabia’s security is (part) of our security,” he said, adding: “We are concerned over our Arab and Gulf depth.”In response to a question from Jordan’s minister of foreign affairs and Jordanian expatriate affairs, stressed that “the security and stability of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is part of the security and stability of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.”The Jordanian foreign minister said that “Jordan’s position is consistent with the rejection of Iranian interference in the affairs of the countries in the region.”
Interference in Arab affairs
The source explained that Jordan’s envoy in Iran returned to Amman on Friday morning after he was summoned to consult on the background of “Iran’s interferences in Arab affairs.”He noted that a series of Iranian policies “lead to deepening instability in the region.”“We reject (Iran’s policies) that interfere in the internal affairs of brotherly Arab countries and that harm the principle of good neighborliness which we respect when dealing with countries neighboring Arab states,” he added. Diplomats said Jordan’s decision comes according to Jordan’s orientation “to evaluate its relations with Iran during this phase in the light of the givens and developments related to interferences in the security of the region’s countries.”

PA Suppresses Peaceful Demonstrators in Ramallah
Ramallah - Kifah Ziboun/Asharq Al-Awsat/5 June, 2018/Palestinian security forces forcibly dispersed demonstrators in central Ramallah to demand a lifting of financial sanctions imposed by the Palestinian Authority on the Gaza Strip. PA security forces fired tear gas, used pepper spray and beat a lot of participants, including women. Officers in civilian clothes intervened and attacked demonstrators, provoking angry reactions. The presidency decided to prevent the demonstrations, after a movement called “lifting of sanctions”, supported by factions, activists, former prisoners, lawyers and journalists, carried out two previous demonstrations demanding the cancellation of punitive measures by the PA on Gaza. The authorities arrested around 60 demonstrators and released them hours later. Demonstrators told Asharq Al-Awsat that members of the security forces in civilian clothes took part in the arrest operations. Palestinian officials, factions and human rights organizations condemned the excessive use of force against demonstrators. The Palestinian Journalists Syndicate announced the boycott of news by the Palestinian government and security services, strongly protesting the attacks on journalists during the demonstration. Hanan Ashrawi, member of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), said: “This unjustified behavior constitutes a flagrant violation of the right to freedom of expression and peaceful demonstration and is in complete contravention of the principles enshrined in Palestinian Basic Law and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which the State of Palestine has signed in April 2014.”The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) held the Palestinian government fully responsible for the recent developments. It called for the formation of an impartial commission of inquiry to determine those who gave orders to suppress the demonstrators. Hamas accused the PA of imposing a policy of repression, while the Popular Front described the developments as a crime. The “Islamic Jihad” condemned in the strongest terms the assault against the unarmed, while other factions defended the right for peaceful demonstrations.

Egypt: Key Cabinet Posts Reshuffled, Including Defense and Interior
Cairo - Waleed Abdul Rahman/Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 15 June, 2018/Key cabinet posts were reshuffled in Egypt Thursday with the appointment of a number of new ministers in the government of Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouli. The changes that included a total of 12 ministerial posts, saw the appointment of head of the elite Republic Guard Mohamed Ahmed Zaki as defense minister and Mahmoud Tawfik, who served as chief of the domestic National Security Service, as interior minister. Other cabinet changes include Amr Adl Bayoumi, appointed minister of trade, and Ezz el-Din Abu-Steit as minister of agriculture. Younis el-Masry, the commander of the Air Force, will be the civil aviation minister in the new government. The reshuffle came as President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is working to introduce economic reforms and tighter security measures. Two new female ministers, Hala Zayed who will head the ministry of health and Yasmine Fouad who was tasked with the environment portfolios, were added to the six existing female ministers in the outgoing cabinet. On Thursday, the new 33-member cabinet took the oath of office before Sisi at the presidential palace in east Cairo. Later, the president held meetings with former Defense Minister and Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces Sedky Sobhy; newly appointed Defense Minister Mohamed Zaky; former Interior Minister Magdy abdel Ghaffar, and newly appointed Interior Minister Mahmoud Tawfik. Ambassador Bassam Radi, spokesman for the Egyptian presidency said that during the meeting, the president praised the coordination and cooperation between the two ministries to confront terrorism, and boost security and stability in Egypt. In a press release, Radi said Sisi expressed respect and appreciation to the armed forces, adding that the Egyptian people appreciate their precious sacrifices to spread security and peace throughout the country. In his first statement after the appointment Thursday, the new finance minister said his ministry will work on providing the needed financing to speed up the completion of all pending projects, especially those in the health, education and housing sectors.
Coalition Forces Near Hodeidah Airport as Houthis Suffer Losses
Sanaa - Aden - Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 15 June, 2018/The Yemeni Army backed by Arab Coalition forces supporting Yemen's legitimate government made further advances Thursday to liberate the strategic port city of Hodeidah amid collapses in the ranks of Houthi militias.
Field sources confirmed that a day after launching their military operation “Golden Victory” to liberate Hodeidah and its port, coalition forces infiltrated the center of al-Dureihimi directorate and moved closer to capturing the airport. The Information Center of the Giants Brigades of the armed forces said the army has drawn closer to Hodeidah seaport amid retreats by Iran-backed Houthi rebels. Houthi militias admitted Thursday that one of their top commanders. Brigadier General Ibrahim Mohammed al-Moutawkel, was killed on the west coast front.
Yemeni President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi traveled to the interim capital Aden Thursday only hours after a similar trip by Prime Minister Ahmed Obeid Bin Dagher and a number of cabinet ministers to the city. In Aden, the Yemeni leaders would supervise combat military operations carried out by government troops along with local resistance backed by Arab Coalition forces to wrest back Hodeidah province from the Houthis. Hadi highly praised supportive stances of brethren in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates and their backing to the Yemeni people in the battles against Houthis and the Iranian expansion policy in Yemen and the region, Saba news agency reported. Governor Al Hassan Taher told Asharq Al-Awsat that the legitimate government was currently studying several options for the liberation of Hodeidah and the means to implement them, including the air and naval landing of trained fighters, who will be tasked to target sensitive Houthi positions inside the port city. “Those operations will be quick and swift,” he said.
The governor also emphasized that the liberation plan would respect all humanitarian conditions and take precautionary measures to ensure foremost the protection of civilians.

Arab Commitment to Back Yemen, as League Condemns Houthis
Cairo - Sawsan Abu Husain/Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 15 June, 2018/The Arab League has stressed its continued support to Yemen’s legitimate government and President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi. During an emergency meeting held on Thursday at the level of representatives in Cairo at Yemen’s request, the League supported the Arab Coalition especially in the Yemeni port city of Hodeidah. The Gulf initiative, national dialogue and UN Security Council decisions are the basis for a political settlement, it said after the meeting that was chaired by the Sultanate of Oman. The Council condemned all human rights violations committed by Houthi insurgents, including killings, kidnappings and enforced disappearances. It also condemned the Houthis’ siege of Yemeni cities and called on them to withdraw from Hodeidah to ensure the delivery of humanitarian aid to Yemen. The statement called on all political parties and powers in Yemen to set their differences aside and work on resolving their problems through dialogue under the leadership of the legitimate government. It also advised them to avoid political disputes to alleviate the suffering of Yemenis, which has reached difficult stages.

U.N.: Parts of Yemen Missiles Fired at KSA were Iranian-Made
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/June 15/18/Some components from five missiles fired at Saudi Arabia by Yemen's Huthi rebels were manufactured in Iran but U.N. officials are unable to determine when they were sent to Yemen, according to a confidential U.N. report seen by AFP. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the Security Council in the 14-page report that debris from the missiles fired since July 2017 "share key design features with a known type of missile manufactured" by Iran. The report, sent to the council on Tuesday, added that "some component parts of the debris were manufactured in the Islamic Republic of Iran" but it remained unclear whether the transfer was in violation of U.N. restrictions. U.N. officials were "unable to determine when such missiles, parts thereof or related technology may have been transferred from" Iran, it said. The findings were less conclusive that those of a separate U.N. panel of experts that reported in January that Iran was in violation of the arms embargo on Yemen for failing to block the missile supplies. The report could deal a setback to the United States which has repeatedly called on the Security Council to take action against Iran over illegal arms transfers to Yemen and elsewhere in the region. Iran has strongly denied arming the Huthis despite accusations from the United States and Saudi Arabia that missiles fired at Riyadh and other Saudi cities were Iranian-made. Earlier this year, Russia questioned the findings of the panel and in February vetoed a resolution that would have pressured Iran over the supply of missiles to the Huthis. Moscow argues that Yemen is awash in weapons and that many of them were delivered at a time when neither Iran or Yemen were under an arms embargo. Guterres said that U.N. officials had examine explosives seized by Bahrain from a vessel in 2016 and were "confident" that some of the material was Iranian-made. But again they found no indication about when the items were shipped and were unable to make a determination of a violation. The findings were contained in a report on the implementation of a 2015 resolution that endorsed the Iran nuclear deal, now in danger of collapse after President Donald Trump's announcement of a U.S. withdrawal from the agreement. The Security Council is scheduled to discuss the report on June 27.

U.N. Calls for Yemen Port to be Kept Open despite Offensive
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/June 15/18/ The U.N. Security Council has called for a key port in war-ravaged Yemen to be kept open to deliveries of vital food and humanitarian supplies after the Saudi-led coalition launched an offensive to seize Hodeida. But the council brushed aside a call by Sweden, a non-permanent member, for a freeze to the military operation to allow time for talks on a rebel withdrawal from the Red Sea port. The council met behind closed doors at Britain's request following U.N. warnings of a looming humanitarian disaster from an all-out assault on Hodeida. Following a two-hour closed-door meeting, Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia, who holds the council presidency, said council members were "united in their deep concern about the risks to the humanitarian situation." Council members "reiterated their call for the ports of Hodeida and Saleef to be kept open," said Nebenzia. The United Nations has warned that the military operation could cripple deliveries of commercial goods and humanitarian aid to millions of people in Yemen who are on the brink of famine. The Red Sea port, controlled by the Iran-backed Huthi rebels, serves as the entry point for 70 percent of the impoverished country's imports, but the coalition maintains that the rebels use it to smuggle weapons. "It is time for the Security Council to call for an immediate freeze of the military attack on Hodeida," said Swedish Deputy Ambassador Carl Skau in a statement ahead of the meeting. "This is needed to give the special envoy and United Nations-led efforts a chance to avert disaster and find a sustainable political solution to the conflict." It was the second time this week that the council has met to try to address the crisis in Yemen. On Monday, the Security Council said it supported U.N. envoy Martin Griffiths, who is leading diplomatic efforts to convince the Huthi rebels to hand over control of the port. The council did not call on Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, whose troops are backing Yemeni forces, to refrain from attacking Hodeida. More than 22 million people in Yemen are in need of aid, including 8.4 million who are at risk of starvation, according to the United Nations, which considers Yemen to be the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

Israel Ministry Report Shows Concern over Trump's N. Korea Summit

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/June 15/18/ An internal report has revealed Israeli foreign ministry officials' reservations over the summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korea's Kim Jong Un, despite the government's public endorsement. The paper, written by the ministry's research department and sent to Israeli diplomats worldwide, said Tuesday's summit raised "questions" on North Korea's commitment to nuclear disarmament, according to private Channel 10 television. The channel on Thursday night quoted the report as saying there were "substantive gaps between the American statements prior to the summit on the need for 'full, irreversible and verifiable' denuclearization and the formulation of the joint statement, which only referred to North Korea's 'complete denuclearization'."A spokesman for the Israeli foreign ministry confirmed the veracity of the document to AFP on Friday, but refused to add further details. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had on Tuesday commended Trump on the "historic summit," calling it "an important step in the effort to rid the Korean Peninsula of nuclear weapons."But the Israeli foreign ministry document also pointed to doubts in Japan, South Korea, the media and U.S. Congress as to North Korea's sincerity. "Despite Trump's declarations about quick changes expected in North Korea's policy, the way to substantive change -- if that ever comes -- is still long and slow," Channel 10 quoted the report as saying. Trump has sounded a triumphant tone since the summit in Singapore, where he and Kim signed a joint statement in which the North Korean leader committed "to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula." Critics have pointed to the vague wording of the non-binding document, which Trump described as a "deal", and to concerns among allies about the decision to stop U.S.-South Korean "war games."
Trump Announces Tariffs on $50 Billion in Chinese Imports
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/June 15/18/U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday announced tariffs of 25 percent targeting $50 billion in Chinese imports, making good on a pledge to punish the alleged theft of American intellectual property. The announcement was sure to spark countermeasures by Beijing, which has vowed to retaliate, bringing the world's two largest economies to the brink of an all-out trade war long feared by markets and industry. However in a statement, Trump also warned of "additional tariffs" should China hit back with tit-for-tat duties on American goods and services exports. "The United States can no longer tolerate losing our technology and intellectual property through unfair economic practices," Trump said in the statement. "These tariffs are essential to preventing further unfair transfers of American technology and intellectual property to China, which will protect American jobs." The announcement caps months of sometimes fraught shuttle diplomacy between Washington and Beijing, in which Chinese offers failed to assuage Trump's grievances over the soaring US-China trade imbalance. But Trump's China trade offensive is only one side of his multi-front trade confrontation with all major US economic partners. Trump outraged Canadian, Mexican and European leaders last month by imposing punishing tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum to protect American producers from allegedly unfair competition. The Trump administration on Friday was also due to release a finalized list of Chinese goods that will face the tariffs. U.S. officials say Beijing has sought industrial dominance in the emerging technologies through the theft of American know-how through forced technology transfers, hacking and other forms industrial espionage.

Migrant Crisis on the Menu as Macron Meets Italian Leader
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/June 15/18/ French President Emmanuel Macron will meet Italy's new premier Giuseppe Conte Friday to try patch up relations, after sparks flew between the two countries over Rome's rejection of a migrant rescue ship. Despite efforts by both sides to play down their testy exchanges, the clash underscores the deep divisions in Europe over how to handle the massive influx of migrants from across the Mediterranean in recent years. In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel is embroiled in a showdown with the right wing of her governing coalition, which is demanding that she immediately ditch her liberal migration policy and tighten border controls. Merkel has pleaded for more time to negotiate with her European partners on a common response ahead of an EU summit on June 28-29. But there are few signs that European leaders are anywhere near being ready to coordinate their policies despite a looming end-of-June deadline to change the EU's current asylum rules. In a telephone call Wednesday to turn the page on days of bickering, Macron and Conte called for "new initiatives" to ease the pressure on Italy, Greece and Spain -- the three countries on the frontline of the migrant crisis. "It's time for collective action," Macron said afterwards.
Ship on way to Spain
The Aquarius rescue vessel at the center of this week's row was on Friday continuing to make its way across the Mediterranean to Spain, which agreed to take the 629 migrants aboard after Italy and Malta refused the ship permission to dock. Spain's foreign minister Josep Borrell said he hoped the spectacle of the migrants -- mostly Africans, including pregnant women and scores of children -- would "move" other European states into showing more solidarity. Under the EU's Dublin Agreement, which is currently up for review, migrants hoping to apply for asylum must do so in the first country they enter, a policy which has placed a huge burden on Italy in particular. The influx has encouraged the rise of far-right and populist parties -- leading most recently to an anti-migrant coalition government taking power in Italy. "We need to work on reform of the Dublin Agreement," Conte stressed ahead of his Paris visit. Earlier this week his interior minister joined forces with his German and Austrian counterparts in an "axis of the willing" to combat illegal immigration. Other countries meanwhile, such as Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, have either refused outright or resisted taking in refugees under a contested EU quota system.
Hypocritical lessons
The spat between France and Italy erupted this week after Macron accused Rome of "cynicism and irresponsibility" for refusing to let the Aquarius dock. Italy's new government hit back, accusing Paris of giving "hypocritical lessons" and threatening to pull out of the meeting with Macron on Friday.
Rome also summoned the French ambassador over the dispute -- the second time it has done so over the migrant crisis in two months. Macron's critics said he was hardly in a position to lecture, noting that France had taken in far fewer migrants since the start of the crisis than the likes of Germany and Sweden, and has sealed off its border to most migrants trying to cross into the country from Italy. The French leader, who has taken a hard line on migration from African countries that are not at war, said Thursday that "none of his comments were intended to offend Italy and the Italian people". In a further gesture of reconciliation the French foreign ministry said it was ready to welcome migrants aboard Aquarius who "meet the criteria for asylum" after they arrive in Spain. Italy itself has appeared eager to avoid too harsh a response. After turning the Aquarius away, it allowed a coast guard ship carrying over 900 migrants land on Sicily on Wednesday. And on Thursday, the Italian coast guard brought fresh supplies to the Aquarius as it made its way past Sardinia. It is due to arrive in Spain at the weekend.

Poll: In Merkel Migrant Row, Germans Back Tough Policies

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/June 15/18/ As Chancellor Angela Merkel fights to save her government in a heated battle over immigration, an opinion poll Friday showed most Germans support the tougher line of her rebel interior minister. The survey found that 62 percent of respondents were in favour of turning back undocumented asylum seekers at the border, in line with the stance of Interior Minister Horst Seehofer who is openly challenging Merkel. And 86 percent want faster deportations of rejected asylum seekers, a process now often held up by bureaucratic hurdles, according to the Infratest dimap poll. The survey heightens pressure on Merkel, who has faced a backlash for allowing into Germany more than one million people fleeing war and misery in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere since 2015. The mass influx sparked the rise of the far-right and anti-Islam AfD party, which entered parliament last September. Merkel's welcome to refugees also infuriated Seehofer and his CSU, the sister party of her Christian Democrats in the southern state of Bavaria, the main entry point for most arrivals. In an unprecedented split between the CDU and CSU, Seehofer has openly defied Merkel with a demand to allow border police to turn back migrants who lack valid identity papers or are already registered in another EU country. Merkel argues that Germany must not take the sudden and unilateral step of rejecting most asylum seekers at the border, which would heighten the burden for frontline countries like Italy, Greece and Spain. She has pledged instead to seek bilateral agreements with these countries and a wider solution by the EU, which holds its next summit on June 28-29.
Not 'Game of Thrones
The CSU -- which faces an election threat from the AfD in October state polls -- has refused to budge and set Merkel an effective ultimatum of next Monday. Seehofer will on that day seek CSU party backing to use his ministerial authority to order border police to turn back the asylum seekers.
The feuding parties have reportedly asked parliamentary Speaker Wolfgang Schaeuble, the 75-year-old former finance minister, to mediate in the bitter dispute. For Merkel, in power for over 12 years, the stakes couldn't be higher as she leads an uneasy coalition government with a narrow majority that took half a year to cobble together. If Seehofer decides to go it alone, Merkel would have to fire him, sparking an unprecedented CDU-CSU split, political scientist Heinrich Oberreuter told business daily Handelsblatt. In that scenario, Merkel could lead a minority government with the third party in the coalition, the Social Democrats (SPD), or call fresh elections that would likely benefit only the AfD, he said.Amid the chaos, the SPD's Finance Minister Olaf Scholz called for cool heads to prevail, tweeting that "the task of governing our country is serious and not an episode of Game of Thrones".

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on June 15-16/18
Interview with Daniel Pipes: U.S. Embassy Move May Bring Regrets
Canadian Jewish News/June 15, 2018
Daniel Pipes is a historian, commentator and writer who sounded early warnings about the danger of "militant" or "radical" Islam.
He is the founder and president of Middle East Forum, a think-tank that branched out into Campus Watch, which critiques Middle East studies; Islamist Watch, which opposes non-violent jihadis; the Legal Project, which protects those who discuss Islamism; and the Washington Project, which provides information to the U.S. administration and Congress.
The author of 16 books on Islam, the Middle East and other subjects, Pipes was in Toronto recently for private meetings with supporters. This interview, conducted by Paul Lungen, was edited and condensed for style and clarity.
What was the strategic thinking behind the U.S. Embassy move to Jerusalem?
There are two different interpretations. The common one is that this is Donald Trump fulfilling his campaign promise. It fits in with a positive understanding of Israel's value, building the U.S.-Israel relationship. I disagree. I see it in the context of a larger effort, little to do with campaign promises and a lot to do with hostility towards Iran.
If you wish to build up an anti-Iran alliance, then you need to take several steps. The first is to lavish attention and arms on the Saudis, so that you bring them over as an ally in a way they have never been before. Step two is solidify and warm up relations with Jerusalem – such as moving the embassy. Step three is warm up and solidify relations with the Palestinians. That hasn't happened – quite the reverse. The Palestinian Authority (PA) has engaged for half a year of a boycott of American officialdom.
I see this as transitory. At a certain point, either Mahmoud Abbas or his successor will say, "OK, Trump, you've talked to us about some benefit we're going to get. What is it?" And we know pretty well what it is. The U.S. government will recognize Palestine with Jerusalem as its capital and, in return, the Palestinians are supposed to give up the right of return.
So, in Trump's thinking, you take care of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict by giving each side what it wants, and then the Saudis will accept Israel as a full-fledged partner and you have a real alliance against Iran. The problem with this is that the Palestinians are not going to fulfill their role, and will not change their hostility towards Israel. This will once again leave the U.S. government annoyed with Israel for not resolving things with the Palestinians. I see Israel being in the hot seat, once again, as the Palestinians misbehave.
Although I was thrilled at the time the embassy move was declared, I think I will eventually wish that the U.S. embassy were still in Tel Aviv.
Preparing for the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem.
What do you see as the way to end the conflict?
I call it Israel victory. It will be achieved by the U.S. government in particular, but other governments as well, saying to the Israelis, "Do what you need to do to convince the Palestinians that the gig is up and they have lost." The trouble now is the Palestinians don't think they've lost. They think they have a shot of eliminating the Jewish state and, thus, they give up their children and much else in pursuit of this goal of eliminating Israel.
I want the Israelis, supported by their allies, to engage in policies that will convince the Palestinians that there's no hope for this goal.
Getting back to the embassy move, it seemed the reaction in Arab capitals was muted compared to what it might have been in previous years?
It was extraordinary. Not a single Arab capital, including Damascus and Baghdad, said more than a perfunctory word or two about this. Instead, it was Ankara and Tehran that were exercised about it, and, to some extent, the Europeans as well.
The Arab states used the conflict with Israel, for some decades, as a way of mobilizing opinion and distracting opinion away from the current local problems. It's a tiger they want to get off of.
What's really interesting is that you see major cracks in Muslim hostility towards Israel, spectacularly in Saudi Arabia. But on the left, the hostility against Israel is growing and growing.
Was Israel hurt by the recent Gaza conflict beyond the PR black eye? Did Hamas gain anything from it?
Hamas and the PA both know that if Palestinians die, Israel looks bad. It doesn't matter what the circumstances are. I don't know how deep and important that PR black eye is. There's so much else going on in the world that I think this is not the most important development of late.
But there is this bizarre transformation where the Palestinian leadership wants Palestinians dead and the Israeli leadership wants them alive. It's not the way war was traditionally conducted.
Note the contrasting role of baby carriages for Palestinians (L) and Israelis.
Iran sent an armed drone into Israel in February. Israel has bombed Iranian assets in Syria. Where do you see this going from here? Are we looking at a wider war eventually?
I'm skeptical that the Iranians are ready for a wider war with Israel; they have enough problems. Their situation in Syria is not yet established. There are major tensions with Russia. Their economy has significant weaknesses. There are internecine problems in the Iranian leadership. As we saw at the turn of the year, the Iranian population is not happy. So I don't think a large-scale war with Israel is in the offing. Also, as the recent incidents show, Israel is far stronger when it comes to conventional warfare.
However, the Iranians have other means of making life miserable for the Israelis. They have attacked Israelis and Jewish institutions around the world. Think of Argentina, Bulgaria, Azerbaijan, India. They support Hamas in Gaza but, most importantly, they have something like 150,000 rockets and missiles in southern Lebanon that can be called upon to attack Israel. So the Iranians have major cards up their sleeves – but not in conventional warfare.
How have American strategic goals vis-a-vis Iran changed under President Trump?
The U.S. government has had problems for 40 years with the Islamic Republic of Iran but, until now, there never has been an effort to change the regime. Under Obama, there was the attempt to bring in the Iranians, to be friendly towards them, to see if that would change them. Before that, it was sticks, not carrots. Under Trump, while it's not a declared regime-change policy, it's awfully close to that. There is an unprecedented willingness to take on the Iranian regime, whether it be economically, through sanctions or in other ways, by fighting them, if need be. So this is a new era in U.S.-Iran relations.
If 1979 to 2009 was one era, and under Obama from 2009 to 2016 was a second era, we're now in a third era.
Some Arab countries have been moving closer to Israel because of the Iranian threat. Is that a temporary thing that will change to a more traditional hostility to Israel if there's a regime change in Iran?
I don't think it will go back to where it was, but it certainly won't continue the way it is now. Yes, this is temporary, this is ephemeral, this is tactical. But in the course of something being tactical for a while, it changes minds. There are now Saudi leaders who travel to Israel. There are plenty of interactions. I don't think it will go back to where it was, but it won't continue to warm up, short of a resolution of the Palestinian issue. It can't go very far.
As the demographics change in western European countries, do you expect more hostility to Israel?
I don't think it's the demographics that are key. It's not the Muslim population of Europe that has turned Europeans against Israel. It goes to them being leftists and the left is hostile to Israel. [British Labour party leader] Jeremy Corbyn is a symbol of that, but there are so many others as well. But I'm not sure it's going to continue in that direction, because there is a countervailing force that rejects the current establishment.
These new parties generally have a sympathy towards Israel, and as these parties come to the fore, which one can see all across Europe, with some exceptions, Israel is likely to do better because these parties are worried about Islam, Islamization, Shariah and the like. They naturally look at Israel as an ally in their concerns. I think we're entering a new era in European politics that will be far more unsettled. The old verities are not working anymore. I think there will be more violence, more disputation, more troubles ahead. Things are changing in Europe.

The Turkish Race

Amir Taheri/Asharq Al-Awsat/June 15/18
As the Turkish election campaign reaches its final phase, a consensus is emerging that it should be regarded as a referendum on Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the man who has dominated the nation's politics for almost two decades. Erdogan has often boasted that he has never lost an election and, as polls indicate, he is unlikely to lose this time either. Since 2002, he and his AK (Justice and development) Party have won five parliamentary elections, three local elections, three referendums and one presidential election. But what if the victory he expects next week turns out to be a tactical win and a strategic loss? Erdogan won his first victory in a national election at a time that Turkish politics had hit an impasse and needed radical changes of direction and method. Erdogan provided that change and, at least during his first decade as the captain of the Turkish ship of state, succeeded in steadying the wayward vessel and pointing it towards what looked like peace and prosperity. Now, however, observers of the Turkish experience are almost unanimous in thinking that not only those promised golden shores may be receding but that Erdogan's leadership may have led to five new impasses.
The first impasse is political.
By concentrating power in the presidency, which means in his own hands, something that, after Ataturk's death, took Turkey almost half a century to modify, Erdogan has upset the institutional balance and the pluralism of the political scene developed since the latest of the military juntas in the 1980s.
Two decades ago, Erdogan was the bearer of a new message of pluralism, power-sharing and give-and-take. Today, he himself is the message. In voting for Erdogan you are no longer voting for a program, a philosophy, or even a new governing elite. You vote for Erdogan.
Paradoxically, the Turkish voter today knows less about who really Erdogan is, or wants to be, than two decades ago. Uncertainty regarding the future of Turkish institutions is more acute than it was in the post Turgot Ozal sunset phase of rule by corrupt and incompetent parties.
The second impasse created under Erdogan concerns the vexed issue of identity, most dramatically underlined by the four-decade long failure of successive governments in Ankara to forge a modus vivendi with the ethnic Kurds who account for at least 15 per cent of the population. Ataturk had decided to solve the problem by denying it existed. He jettisoned the Ottoman system of “unity in diversity” by inventing an ideal “Turkish identity” that ignored ethnic, religious and cultural differences in a society rich in its diversity. Ataturk’s policy led to an impasse which produced a civil war that has claimed more than 40,000 lives.
Initially, Erdogan realized the wisdom of the Ottoman policy of managing ethnic prejudices by regarding diversity as an asset. His government was initially successful in defusing the Kurdish time-bomb with a series of accommodating policies. Later, however, Erdogan tried to “drown the fish” by dividing the nation into numerous ethnic identities of which Kurds would be one among many, a trick that ensured the failure of his initially promising policies.  To be sure, the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) helped that failure by sticking to its dogmatic, violent and Stalinist methods. Today, the Kurdish question is more acute than ever. The third impasse concerns Turkish aspirations after full membership of the European Union, a goal shared by almost all political parties, even if only in a pro-forma manner, since the 1960s.  May be “Destination Europe” was never more than an empty slogan as powerful voices in the European Union oppose Turkish membership for a variety of reasons, including racism and concerns about Islam. Nevertheless, the slogan provided a strong narrative in favor of democratic reforms and economic liberalization that cut across parochial and partisan interests and narrow concerns.
Today, however, as far as “joining Europe” is concerned, Turkey is farther than ever from its pronounced goal. Almost all parties contesting next week’s elections at both presidential and parliamentary levels agree that the road to Europe is blocked, at least for the foreseeable future.
Erdogan has also created a fourth impasse in Turkey’s relations with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and its leader the United States. That led to a surrealistic situation in which Turkish forces invading Syria at some point feared a direct clash with US troops helping Syrian Kurds consolidate their hold on a chunk of territory.
Erdogan’s involvement in Syria obliged him to try to be sweet to the Russians who were emerging as a major player there. That, in turn, widened the distance with both the US and the European Union at a time they had their own issues with Vladimir Putin’s Russia. Too late, Erdogan realized that Turkey, de-coupled from NATO, would not be as valuable to Russia and thus denied the influence that Ankara might have dreamed of. Finally, Erdogan has created a fifth economic impasse by casting a shadow of doubt over policy options he might contemplate once reconfirmed in his position. Four years ago, Turkey seemed to have definitely converted to a model of economic liberalism that emphasized private enterprise, limited the public sector to a few key areas, and respected international norms and practices especially as far as transparency and the rule of law are concerned.
Today, however, Turkish economy seems to be prone to interventionist temptations, corrupt practices and shenanigans prevalent in so-called “developing nations” with petty autocratic governments.  Not surprisingly, direct foreign investment has fallen to its lowest level since 2010 while the Turkish currency, lira, has lost almost a third of its value compared to a basket of world currencies. Turkish annual growth rate forecast by the World Bank is the lowest since 2008 with recession a growing concern. Paradoxically, in this election campaign, none of those impasses featured as prominently as they deserved, with all parties, and their presidential candidates, falling for the personalization of the exercise that Erdogan wanted. In that sense, Erdogan may have already won. At a time of uncertainty many voters may decide that it is better to stick with the devil they know rather than risk courting an unknown one.
However, Erdogan’s win could also turn out to be his loss, especially if, as many expect, voter-turnout and his share of the votes take a downward turn.

Like it or Not, Singapore Summit was a Success
Joseph Detran/Cipher/June 15/18
The historic June 12th summit in Singapore between President Donald Trump and Chairman Kim Jung Un has moved us closer to a peaceful resolution of issues with North Korea. Compared to where we were eight months ago, when the possibility of stumbling into kinetic conflict on the Korean Peninsula was real, we are now in a much better place. The June 12th Joint Statement captured the progress we’ve made with North Korea, especially on issues dealing with the eventual dismantlement of North Korea’s nuclear programs and a process to establish a new U.S. – North Korea relationship, all with the potential to lead to peace on the Korean Peninsula. Some have criticized the language used in this Joint Statement regarding North Korea’s nuclear program: “The DPRK commits to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.” The criticism was that this language was too vague. Interestingly though, we used similar language in the September 2005 Joint Statement: “Verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”
During the 2003-2005 negotiations that resulted in the Joint Statement, we made it clear that denuclearization meant the Complete, Verifiable and Irreversible Dismantlement (CVID) of North Korea’s nuclear weapons and nuclear weapons facilities. Although we attempted to use CVID in the Joint Statement, we were repeatedly told by North Korean negotiators that the term CVID was offensive and its use in any official document would be a show-stopper. Thus, the Joint Statement of September 2005 did not use the term CVID.
If you understand that, it’s not so hard to understand that CVID was not used in the June 12th Joint Statement. What’s important is that Kim Jung Un and the leadership in Pyongyang know, from meetings with President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, that the U.S. definition of denuclearization was, and is Complete, Verifiable, Irreversible Denuclearization and anything short of that remains a show-stopper for the U.S.
The June 12th Joint Statement memorialized a critically important issue that we’ve been pursuing for years: “Recovering POW/MIA remains, including the immediate repatriation of those already identified.” Making this a stated deliverable from this summit will provide the policy focus needed to finally resolve this issue. The Joint Statement also designated Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as the lead for follow-on negotiations, to ensure implementation of the Joint Statement. No one knows North Korea better than Pompeo, given his work at CIA and his trips to Pyongyang and meetings with Chairman Kim Jung Un and Vice Chairman Kim Yong Chol.
One of the first actions now will be for North Korea to provide a comprehensive declaration of the number and location of nuclear weapons as well as a listing of all nuclear weapons facilities and personnel. They should also be required to sign a verification protocol that will permit international nuclear monitors to visit and inspect declared nuclear weapons sites, and personnel, and have access to non-declared, suspect, nuclear weapons sites. (The unraveling of the Six Party Talks and the September 2005 Joint Statement was due to North Korea’s refusal to sign a verification agreement that permitted monitors to visit non-declared suspect nuclear weapons sites.) With a signed statement, we can commence with the removal of fissile material (Plutonium and Highly Enriched Uranium) and the dismantlement of facilities producing fissile material, concurrent with the disablement and/or removal of nuclear weapons. The Department of Energy has rich experience doing this work, as does the IAEA.
As we focus on ensuring that all nuclear weapons and nuclear weapons facilities are dismantled in a complete, verifiable and irreversible manner, there also needs to be movement on deliverables for North Korea, to include a peace treaty to end the Korean War, security assurances stating that the U.S. has no intention of attacking or invading North Korea, and a process to normalize relations, possibly with the initial establishment of liaison offices in our respective capitals. The President’s announcement that joint military exercises with South Korea will be suspended, assuming North Korea’s compliance on denuclearization, is another security assurance to a North Korea that views these military exercises as an existential threat.
The bottom line is that we’re now at a better place with North Korea than we were just a few months ago. Biting sanctions and intimidating joint military exercises, and North Korea’s success in acquiring a so-called nuclear deterrent, all contributed to Kim Jung Un’s decision to reach out to President Trump. What also contributed to this outreach to the U.S. and South Korea was, in my view, Kim’s strategic decision to seek a normal relationship with the U.S., so as to focus on improving North Korea’s ailing economy. To do that, Kim knew that this goal was obtainable only if he gave up his nuclear weapons. I believe he’s prepared to do this, but only if he receives security assurances that regime change is not our policy. His meetings with President Trump no doubt allayed many of Kim’s concerns about his and his government’s security.
The Singapore Summit was an historic success. But it’s only the beginning of a process that will require lots of work, patience and persistence.
**The author was the former Special Envoy for Negotiations with North Korea. The views are the author’s views and not any government department or agency.

Refugees and the Arab States - Part Three
Denis MacEoin/Gatestone Institute/June 15/18
Whereas refugees arriving under the UNHCR are entitled to be granted asylum and eventually citizenship, the UAE is clear from the start that it wants to send its refugees back home. Back home to what? To a half-ruined country still ruled by one of history's most brutal dictators hand-in-hand with Iran, Russia, and Hizbullah?
As the years pass, as more and more countries struggle with poverty, conflict, religious extremism, terrorism, ethnic divisions, governmental incapacity, corruption, and declining levels of education, huge sections of the world's rapidly growing population will look in vain for safe places... The Western states who support the UNHCR cannot possibly handle this without suffering internal decline.
In the first part of this series, as many surveys have shown, we saw how difficult it has been, and apparently remains, for many Muslims to be assimilated into non-Muslim societies.
In Part Two, we examined how difficult it remains to allow Syrian and other refugees even to settle into other Muslim and Arab countries, including places such as Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq, and Jordan, which have taken in millions.
In this final part, we shall look at the remaining Muslim countries, which have taken in few or no refugees from the Syrian civil war. These are the richest countries in the Arab world, and the least troubled by disintegration. Many are generous in their funding for humanitarian aid, but that money is donated on the understanding that the refugees are looked after by the UNHCR and the countries they have already reached. Seeing why may be a help.
In 2014, Amnesty International published a short article, "Facts and Figures: Syria refugee crisis & international resettlement", in which it stated that "The six Gulf countries - Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain - have offered zero resettlement places to Syrian refugees".
This conclusion was echoed Deutsche Welle, the BBC, Time magazine, CNN, the Washington Post , the Huffington Post, the Jerusalem Post and other media. The most detailed report, however, came from the Brookings Institution in a September 2015 article by Luay Al-Khateeb, a prominent Arab expert on the geopolitics and economics of the GCC. Al-Khateeb noted that:
"condemnation of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) stance on the region's refugee crisis has reached a crescendo... they have countered criticism by asking the world to do more.
"The GCC, it is pointed out, has nonetheless given more money for refugees than any other [country]."[1]
As early as 2013, this amounted to $40 billion. Despite this generosity, the bulk of GCC aid money goes to other Muslim states, notably Egypt and Morocco, which, as noted in Part Two, have taken almost no refugees.
At this point, things become murkier. In 2015, Alex Nowrasteh, writing for Newsweek, argued that there are more Arabs and Muslims living in Arab and Muslim lands than ever before:
Many more Syrians are living in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States than at the beginning of the Syrian civil war in 2011.
The World Bank reports that 1,000,000 Syrians resided in Saudi Arabia in 2013, a whopping 795% increase over 2010. There were 1,375,064 Syrian migrants living in the Gulf States in 2013, a 470% increase over 2010.
Excluding Oman, the 2013 Syrian population in every Gulf State has increased dramatically since right before the beginning of the Syrian civil war.
Others have also taken up cudgels on behalf of the GCC countries. Open Source Investigations, writing in December 2015, argued that the story about GCC failure to receive refugees is "a myth". Just before that, the Guardian opined that Saudi Arabia had said criticism of their refugee response was "false and misleading". The humanitarian organization HumanRefuge(e) published an article entitled "How Many Syrians Let in by the Gulf States?"
The HumanRefuge(e) post even features a map that purports to show high numbers of Syrian refugees who have been settled in Saudi Arabia.[2]
Why is there such a discrepancy between these two accounts: on the one hand, that the Gulf states have taken in no refugees and, on the other, that they have taken large numbers?
The explanation given by HumanRefuge(e), Open Source Investigations, the Saudi government and others hinges (or appears to hinge) on the fact that:
The UNHCR counts refugees using the 1951 Refugee Convention, among other protocols. Gulf states like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, and the UAE did not sign any UN protocols on refugees, so most refugees residing in these areas aren't counted by agencies like the UNHCR.
A clearer explanation is given by Chaker Khazaal, commenting on a 2014 report by Amnesty International:
The reason it's difficult to establish just how many refugees are being hosted by countries in the GCC is because they do not officially recognize incoming asylum-seekers as refugees. Since the GCC is not a signatory of the United Nations' 1951 Refugee Convention, they are not bound by law to provide these people with the standard treatment and rights typically afforded those seeking refuge in a new country.
Admittedly, while the Arab states of the GCC might not have officially resettled any of the Syrian refugees, it would be incorrect to say that Arab states have not received any of the millions of Syrians who have been displaced since the civil war began.
The problem is that being an official refugee and being a guest of a GCC work-sponsorship program are not one and the same. The most significant difference is that official refugees in countries that have agreed to the 1951 Refugee Convention are eligible to become citizens after a certain period of time.
There are (or have been) a lot of Syrians in some of the countries in question. But these are migrant workers, not people fleeing from the civil war. Instead of treating these workers as asylum seekers entitled to the rights of resettlement and citizenship, the Gulf states are trying hard to expel them.
Saudi Arabia, for example, has experienced physical and social decline from its migrant population. Dr Khalid Mandeli (PhD from Newcastle University), a lecturer at Jeddah's King AbdulAziz University, has published a number of articles that show concerns about the impact of migrant workers living in slum areas.[3] Their presence goes back to the 1970s, when the country brought in cheap foreign labour after the oil boom and religious awakening of the period.
By 2013, the Saudi government had embarked on a "Saudization" campaign that aims to remove foreign workers in order to put more Saudis to work. The result has been alarming:
Until recently, of the kingdom's 30 million residents, more than nine million were non-Saudis. Since the labour crackdown started in March, one million Bangladeshis, Indians, Filipinos, Nepalis, Pakistanis and Yemenis have left. And the campaign has moved into higher gear after the final deadline expired on 4 November, with dozens of repatriation flights now taking place every day. By next year, two million migrants will have gone.
In 2015, Human Rights Watch published a short report on the issue: "Detained, Beaten, Deported: Saudi Abuses against Migrants during Mass Expulsions". The report noted that:
None of the workers interviewed were allowed to challenge their deportations or apply for asylum. Saudi Arabia has not established an asylum system under which migrants could prevent their forced return to places where their lives or freedom would be threatened.
Is it plausible, however, that a country that sees foreigners as a problem and has no asylum system in place has brought in as many as two million Syrian refugees to add to their woes?
The same problem apparently lies behind the rejection of refugees in the rest of the region. Khazaal notes that:
The mass deportation of workers is considered to be a result of the region's reported attempts to prioritize giving employment opportunities to their local citizens. There is also widespread perception that Syrians wishing to seek refuge in the Gulf states are unlikely to be granted a visa in the first place. This was confirmed by the BBC:
Although those fleeing the Syrian crisis have for several years been crossing into Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey in huge numbers, entering other Arab states - especially in the Gulf - is far less straightforward.
Officially, Syrians can apply for a tourist visa or work permit in order to enter a Gulf state.
But the process is costly, and there is a widespread perception that many Gulf states have unwritten restrictions in place that make it hard for Syrians to be granted a visa in practice.
In 2017, UNHCR reported on a "landmark agreement" between themselves and Kuwait to aid Syrian refugees. Good news, but it is important to read the small print. The agreement is worth $10 million and is aimed "to improve the living conditions of Syrian refugees in northern Iraq". But, given that Kurdistan is linguistically and culturally different from Syria, those refugees will find it hard, almost impossible, to settle there. Kuwait's money will only ease refugees living in camps.
Bahrain fits the same narrative. In March 2018 Bahrain pledged a mere $2 million "to build schools in the Zaatari Refugee Camp in Jordan". That is small help for a country already highly pressurized by the numbers of refugees it has taken. This too is not a solution.
In March 2018, the Gulf kingdom of Bahrain pledged a mere $2 million "to build schools" in the Zaatari Refugee Camp in Jordan (pictured above). Photo by Jeff Mitchell/Getty Images.
The UAE boasted in 2016 that is planning to take in 15,000 refugees over the following five years -- three thousand a year. But the long-term prospects of those refugees are not encouraging. Reem Al Hashemi, the UAE's minister of state for international cooperation explained that:
Ultimately, we must offer a source of hope for displaced persons that allows them to maintain dignity, return home, reintegrate themselves into their societies, and rebuild their countries and their lives. [Emphasis in original.]
Whereas refugees arriving under the UNHCR are entitled to be granted asylum and eventually citizenship, the UAE is clear from the start that it wants to send its refugees back home. Back home to what? To a half-ruined country still ruled by one of history's most brutal dictators hand-in-hand with Iran, Russia, and Hizbullah? To Eastern Ghouta? To Aleppo, Homs, Hama, Lattakia, Deir al-Zur, al-Raqqa, Tartus, Daraa, al-Hasakeh, al-Qamishli? In order to "maintain their dignity... reintegrate themselves... and rebuild their countries and their lives"?
This is the response from the sixth richest country in the world (taking the Emirates together)? The second richest in the Arab world (after Saudi Arabia)? Where Abu Dhabi has been described as "the richest city in the world"?
What of Qatar, ranked by Fortune magazine in 2017 as the richest country in the world per capita? Qatar houses a large number of migrant workers, mainly Pakistani and Indian, with three out of four residents male. The migrants make up 94% of the country's workforce and 70% of its total population. In January 2017, Qatar offered to house Salvadorans who may be expelled from the United States. But they would be admitted on a temporary basis only. The treatment of migrant workers by the state, however, has been strongly condemned by the European Parliament and others. A report by the BBC in 2015 gives some details.
As the years pass, as more and more countries struggle with poverty, conflict, religious extremism, terrorism, ethnic divisions, governmental incapacity, corruption, and declining levels of education, huge sections of the world's rapidly growing population will look in vain for safe places in which to live, work, and raise their families. The Western states who support the UNHCR cannot possibly handle this without suffering internal decline.
This decline in many parts of the world will accelerate the growth of refugee and migrant populations, creating a downward spiral that will drag down even the more affluent countries. According to Paul Ehrlich, "Collapse of Civilization is a near certainty within decades". The failure of so many Islamic states and the refusal of some of the richest countries in the world to do much to help, alongside their expenditure of billions of dollars over many years to spread the radicalization of Islam and finance Islamic terrorism, is one of the greatest problems facing the modern world and challenging the democracies.
This situation theoretically calls for major intervention by the United Nations, but the UN is effectively controlled by the very countries that are causing or contributing to the problem. With the Organization of Islamic Cooperation adding to the pressures on the democracies by working in the interest of Muslim states, it is time for a response. But so far, the Western nations have shown no willingness to create one.
Denis MacEoin taught Arabic and Islamic Studies in England and is currently a Distinguished Senior Fellow at New York's Gatestone Institute.
[1] Saudi Arabia and Qatar have provided some $900 million in humanitarian aid to Syrians. The United Arab Emirates have donated $530 million in aid since 2012. Problematically, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees' Syria Regional Response Plan has requested another $4.5 billion, to ensure basic dietary and sanitation conditions in the refugee camps.
[2] Saudi Arabia (500,00 to 2.5 m.), Kuwait (120,000), Bahrain (1,750), Qatar (19,000 to 25,000), and the United Arab Emirates (242,000).
[3] E.g. Khalid Nasralden Mandeli, "The realities of integrating physical planning and local management into urban development: A case study of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia", Habitat International 32 (2008) 512–533
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Who Sanctions Russia? Not Germany.

Shoshana Bryen and Stephen Bryen/Gatestone Institute/June 15/18
While claiming to be appalled by Russia's behavior in Syria, Germany continues to push trade not only with Russia, but with Russia's partner in the Syrian genocide, Iran.
A 2018 German intelligence report confirms that Iran is currently seeking nuclear technology in Germany.
Perhaps it would be better to leave the hypocritical Germany out in the hallway.
President Trump is taking flak for having introduced a subject to the G-7 meeting that our European friends wanted to keep under the table. Russia. The allies expressed horror when Mr. Trump said, "Why are we having a meeting without Russia? We have a world to run... We should have Russia at the negotiating table."
Aside from the hyperbole over who actually runs the world, his comment and the allied response are only shocking if one thinks the Europeans have been boycotting Russia. There are sanctions on Moscow since it illegally invaded and seized Ukraine and Crimea, but sanctions are one thing and trade is another. Germany leads the pack in trade with Russia.
This may have something to do with the fact that Germany, in particular but not only, stays warm in the winter with Russian natural gas meeting about 40% of its requirements.
This is an old story. The Reagan administration objected to Russian-European plans to build the natural gas Yamal Pipeline from Siberia to Germany from which gas would be distributed to much of Western Europe. The American position was that, In the middle of the Cold War, having the USSR control a majority of the supply of natural gas to Germany's industrial heartland would make it difficult for Germany to resist Russian political and military demands. But the Europeans wanted to sell Russia the machinery for the pipeline, making money as they mortgaged their energy future to Moscow.
After a bitter fight, the Yamal pipeline was partially blocked and only one strand of two was built. Post-Soviet, the Russians were able, with European support, to build the second strand. In the early 2000's Europe bought into yet another Russian-originated pipeline -- an undersea project called Nord Stream -- again providing manufacturing jobs and pipeline work for Europe as well as gas.
Early in 2018, Bloomberg reported, "Russia, which shipped some $38 billion of gas to its most lucrative markets in Europe last year, has diminished thoughts that other suppliers could ensure supplies in Europe anytime soon." Nord Stream, and its successor Nord Stream 2, will give Russia the same influence its predecessor, the USSR, would have had.
Russia is now a fine partner for Europe. The Vice President of the Bundestag Thomas Opperman said, "Nord Stream 2 is an important economic project, which we support and it should not be threatened by sanctions from third countries." Mrs. Merkel would agree, no doubt, not only for the warmth, but because the pipeline will enter Germany at Greifswald in the old East Germany, part of her constituency.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel greets Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G20 economic summit on July 7, 2017 in Hamburg, Germany. (Photo by Morris MacMatzen/Getty Images)
The underwater Nord Stream 2 will reduce the price of natural gas by about 40% compared to overland pipelines, benefitting Germany, the UK, France, Belgium, and the Netherlands -- among the countries most outspoken about the invasion of Ukraine. But to make Nord Stream 2 work, Gazprom has to get out of old contracts with Ukraine and Poland. Gazprom is presently suing Ukraine in the international arbitration court in Stockholm to cancel both its gas supply and transit contracts, stiffing Kiev. Ukraine won the first round, but Russia appealed. In the wake of the Ukrainian victory, the EU offered to "mediate" between the two.
Mediate away a favorable judgment for Ukraine? Isn't this whole Russia-boycott project about Putin's interference in Ukraine's march to democracy? Talk about collusion.
So, now that we are clear on Germany and the EU's interest in maintaining economic ties with Russia, consider why they are pretending to keep Putin out in the hallway. Russia, they say, is out because of its horrendous behavior in Ukraine, but -- while no additional sanctions have been imposed for Russian support for the Syrian war criminal regime of Bashar Assad (which may make Moscow complicit in war crimes) -- Syria is on European minds.
Germany, in particular, has had harsh words for Russia over its veto of 12 UN Security Council Resolutions on Syria. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told reporters, "We can't go on like this... So, we're keeping up the political pressure on Russia and we'd like to increase it further. Getting Russia to change its behavior is a condition for solving the Syria conflict." Germany has backed allied air strikes on Syria as "necessary and appropriate."
While claiming to be appalled by Russia's behavior in Syria, however, Germany continues to push trade not only with Russia, but with Russia's partner in the Syrian genocide, Iran.
European firms raced to enter Iran under the terms of the 2015 JCPOA; American firms were less aggressive. But since the U.S. has withdrawn from the never-signed deal, major European companies have been winding down or winding up operations in Iran. At the same time, though, the EU has begun to update its " blocking statute," the most powerful response it has to prevent European companies from complying with impending Iran sanctions.
In what Mrs. Merkel has said is a bid to "protect European companies" in Iran, the statute will nullify in Europe punishment the U.S. imposes for sanctions violations and allows EU companies to sue for damages caused by leaving Iran for fear of U.S. sanctions.
So, the EU will use its leverage to keep companies in a country, Iran, that hangs gay people from cranes in the street, holds American hostages, threatens democratic Israel with annihilation, participates fully in the Syrian genocide, and actively seeks nuclear weapons and ballistic missile technology.
And as Iran seeks military technology, Germany obliges.
In 2016, with government permission, the German company Krempel sold electronic press boards to Iranian companies. The German newspaper Bild reported that Krempel parts were discovered at the site of a Syrian government chemical attack on its civilian population. The Jerusalem Post said the technology was used in the rockets that delivered the chemicals. Krempel didn't deny it, telling Bild the company was "shocked" to find its product in Syria.
A 2018 German intelligence report confirms that Iran is currently seeking nuclear technology in Germany.
Since the 2015 JCPOA, Germany, has been Iran's largest European trading partner: 2.9 billion euros in 2016 according to the German government and 3.6 billion euros in 2017. Interestingly, the trade goes only one way: in 2016, Germany exported 2.6 billion euros worth to Iran and took back only 300 million euros. According to Deutsche Welle, Germany imports dried fruits, pistachios, rugs and industrial raw materials from Iran and sends machinery and equipment, cars, chemicals, pharmaceuticals and medical products, and takes back
Chemicals, machinery, industrial raw materials for Iran's mullahs. What could go wrong?
In sum, then, President Trump's faux pas appears to be having the temerity to suggest that Russia -- a key German trading partner -- have a place at the table for international trade talks. Perhaps it would be better to leave the hypocritical Germany out in the hallway.
Stephen Bryen is President of SDB Partners, LLC. Shoshana Bryen is Senior Director of The Jewish Policy Center.
© 2018 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

Sweden: "It's Fun to Build a Mosque"
Judith Bergman/Gatestone Institute/June 15/18
The desire of Swedish authorities that the content of the Muslim call to prayer, also known as the Adhan, can be ignored and that the issue is only of noise levels is symptomatic of the way Swedish authorities in general approach the increasing Islamization of Sweden: that is continually to deny or ignore the scope of the problem.
In 1993, when the Catholic Church wanted to build a tower for ringing church bells in Växjö, the municipality advised the church to refrain, as the neighbors had complained that they would be bothered by church bells.
Rinkeby subway station was recently categorized as a place too dangerous to work unless escorted by the police, due to the security risk created by stone-throwing and hostile gangs.
Some Muslims in Sweden want to be able to broadcast public calls to prayer throughout the country. They have already succeeded in obtaining permission for this in three cities -- Botkyrka, Karlskrona and Växjö. "We want to have calls to prayer in more places. There are many Muslims who are Swedish citizens, who have the same rights as everyone else" said Avdi Islami, Press Officer of the Växjö Muslim Foundation, after the police recently gave permission for the Växjö mosque to make a roughly 4-minute-long prayer call every Friday around noon.
A March poll of 1,000 Swedes showed that a majority of Swedes -- 60 percent -- are against public Muslim calls to prayer.
"We do not consider the contents of the loudspeaker broadcast, but [only] the potential noise that it makes," said Magnus Rothoff, unit commander of the southern Swedish police region, in explaining the decision-making process of the police.
"Therefore, we chose to refer it to the municipality's environmental management, where there is expertise on the [noise] level that should apply. Then we came to the conclusion that we are not disturbed to the extent that one can make a different decision than to approve."
The municipality also did not consider the content of the call to prayer.
The desire of Swedish authorities that the content of the Muslim call to prayer, also known as the Adhan, can be ignored and that the issue is only of noise levels is symptomatic of the way Swedish authorities in general approach the increasing Islamization of Sweden: that is continually to deny or ignore the scope of the problem.
The content of the Adhan prayer, from a Western point of view, is deeply problematic. Its purpose is not only a neutral call to prayer -- such as church bells, which consist only of musical notes. Here is the translation of the prayer:
"Allah is the greatest (Allahu akbar). I testify that there is no God but Allah (Ashhadu anna la ila ill Allah). I testify that Mohammed is Allah's Prophet (Ashhadu anna Muhammadan rasul Allah). Come to prayer (Hayya alas salah). Come to security/salvation. Allah is the greatest (Allahu akbar). There is no God but Allah (La ilah ill Allah)".
"Allahu akbar" means "Allah is greatest" or "Allah is greater " -- presumably meaning than other deities.
In 1993, when the Catholic Church wanted to build a tower for ringing church bells in Växjö, the municipality advised the church to refrain, as the neighbors had complained that they would be bothered by church bells.
As recent decisions by Swedish authorities in Växjö and Karlskrona have undoubtedly created a legal precedent, however, Avdi Islami's wish to have calls to prayer from mosques all over Sweden is likely to succeed. The Swedish authorities, therefore, are themselves creating the conditions for further Islamization.
Apart from wanting to spread the call to prayer to mosques all over Sweden, new mosques continue to be planned and built. In Rinkeby, a suburb of Stockholm, the construction of the Rinkeby Mosque is about to begin. With 18 domes and at an estimated 5,000 square meters --1500 of which are dedicated to the mosque, and the rest to a restaurant, classrooms and a library -- the mosque will be among Scandinavia's largest, comparable to the Malmö mega mosque, which opened in April 2017. The Rinkeby mosque, designed by the Swedish architect Johan Celsing, will be constructed by NCC, a major construction company in Sweden. The firm estimates that the complex should be ready in 2020 at a cost of around 100 million Swedish kroner ($11.4 million). "It's going to be fun to build a mosque, from a construction point of view," said Fredrik Anheim, Head of Division at NCC Building.
"For eight years, we have been trying to get funding, but now we are as close as you can get," said Ibrahim Bouraleh, Vice President of the Rinkeby Mosque Collection Foundation, who refutes claims that the mosque is being funded by foreign donors. The foundation, however, has only collected 3 million out of the 100 million Swedish kroner needed, so the question arises, who indeed is funding the project?
The organization behind the mosque is the Islamic Association of Järva (Islamiska förbundet i Järva), part of the Islamic Association in Sweden (Islamiska Förbundet i Sverige, IFSI), considered an organizational front for the Muslim Brotherhood. As IFSI clearly states (at the bottom of the linked page and in its statutes), it is a member of the Federation of Islamic Organisations in Europe (FIOE), which is generally acknowledged as an umbrella organization for local Muslim Brotherhood groups from all over Europe.
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal in 2005, then-president of FIOE, Ahmet al-Rawi, said, when asked about ties with the Muslim Brotherhood, "We are interlinked with them with a common point of view. We have a good close relationship."
The area of the future mega mosque, Rinkeby, is considered an "especially vulnerable area" -- known as a no-go zone -- defined by the police as an area "characterized by a social problem and criminal presence that leads to a widespread unwillingness to participate in the judicial process and difficulties for the police to fulfill its mission. The situation is considered acute".
Rinkeby subway station was recently categorized as a place too dangerous to work unless escorted by the police, due to the security risk created by stone-throwing and hostile gangs.
Rinkeby subway station, in Stockholm, Sweden, was recently categorized as as a place too dangerous to work unless escorted by the police, due to the security risk created by stone-throwing and hostile gangs. (Image source: Tricia Wang/Flickr)
In December 2017, Lise Tamm, Head of the National Unit against International and Organized Crime, said, "Rinkeby is almost like a war zone. When the police work there, they work as the military defense would".
Sweden's Islamization of itself barrels on.
*Judith Bergman is a columnist, lawyer and political analyst.
© 2018 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

Does the World Need Another Megadeal?
Brooke Sutherland/Bloomberg View/June, 15/18
Three years and more than $3 trillion worth of megadeals later, investors may well wonder if bigger is better.
Shares of Boston Scientific Corp. spiked 7.4 percent on Monday after the Wall Street Journal reported that fellow medical-device maker Stryker Corp. had offered to acquire it. It's unclear how Boston Scientific feels about a deal, if in fact there's one on offer. Following the report, shares of both companies were halted for "news" that ended up being a Boston Scientific statement acknowledging the story and saying it doesn't comment on speculation. Cool.
On average, analysts estimate Boston Scientific could command $39 a share in a takeover, implying an almost $60 billion deal including debt. Amazingly, that would be only the third-biggest acquisition announced this year, trailing Takeda Pharmaceutical Co.'s $80 billion bid for Shire Plc and Cigna Corp.'s nearly $70 billion purchase of Express Scripts Holding Co. All in, there have been 20 megadeals ($10 billion-plus) in 2018.
This flurry of outsize dealmaking has generally been predicated on the idea that scale is needed to offset shrinking margins as business models are upended by new entrants and digital strategies. A Boston Scientific-Stryker tie-up would be a prime example. It's essentially a bet that bigger medical-device makers have more negotiating power with hospitals and are better positioned for a consolidating health-care environment. AT&T Inc.'s $109 billion purchase of Time Warner Inc. rests on similar logic.
The weaknesses these deals are trying to shield are real, but megamergers aren't always the fix they're designed to be. Bigness can stifle innovation.
In the medical-device industry, Medtronic Plc's $53 billion takeover of Covidien in 2015 should be flashing even bigger warning signs for Stryker. The deal was a tax inversion, but those benefits have faded in the wake of the new US legislation. In fact, it’s kind of been a dud. Medtronic has noted that a broad bundling of products for hospitals isn't really a thing yet, while Stryker and Boston Scientific have actually talked up the importance of focusing on fast-growing niches rather than sheer size, says Jefferies analyst Raj Denhoy.
What's most interesting to me is that people like Denhoy are willing to be skeptical about the merits of a megacombination. That was rarely the case in the heyday of 2015. You also see this from investors. Stryker shares fell about 5 percent on Monday and continued their decline Tuesday. Comcast Corp. has taken a beating amid speculation that it could try to disrupt Walt Disney Co.'s $66 billion acquisition of 21st Century Fox assets. As my colleague Tara Lachapelle notes, it doesn’t really matter what Comcast shareholders think, but elsewhere, investors may start forcing companies to come up with a more creative solution than a megamerger for their weak spots.

Why Economists Avoid Discussing Inequality

Noah Smith/Bloomberg View/June, 15/18
Why would economists rather talk about efficiency than inequality? Having lived among them for a while, I don’t think the reason is what many people think. The common narrative on the political left is that economists are shilling for the rich, focusing on growth in order to draw attention away from how a few are gaining enormous wealth. But a more likely explanation is that economists are trying to avoid getting entangled in politics. In economics parlance, a Pareto improvement — named for Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto — happens when the economy changes in a way that makes life better for some people without leaving anyone worse off than before. Economists typically concentrate on looking for these win-win situations, because Pareto improvements would theoretically be able to please everyone at once — theoretically avoiding the need for them to take one side or the other in political battles. Contrary to the old adage about free lunches, economists are always on the lookout for them.
But Pareto improvements are hard to find. In particular, one thing that makes win-win situations very rare is the existence of social preferences — i.e., when people care about not just what they have, but what their neighbors have.
Here’s an example. Suppose two neighbors, Pete and Charlie, each only care about the size of their own TV. In that case, giving Pete a bigger TV, but leaving Charlie’s the same, is a Pareto improvement — it makes Pete better off without hurting Charlie. But now suppose that Pete and Charlie each would resent it if the other had a bigger TV. Now, giving Pete a bigger one will arouse Charlie’s resentment, meaning that someone has been hurt — thanks to social preferences, it’s harder to find a Pareto improvement. In the extreme worst-case scenario, where Pete and Charlie each only care about the relative size of their TVs, no Pareto improvement is ever possible, because one person’s gain is always equal to someone else’s loss.
In reality, people probably aren’t that purely motivated by competitiveness and envy — people really do want bigger TVs not just to make their neighbors jealous, but because bigger screens are nice. But social preferences are almost certainly real, and they complicate economists’ efforts to find win-win situations for society. A recent paper by economists Sumit Agarwal, Vyacheslav Mikhed and Barry Scholnick shows just how pervasive these competitive instincts are. They looked at what happened to Canadian households’ financial outcomes when their neighbors won the lottery. Obviously, neighborhoods with lots of households that play the lottery in the first place are different from other neighborhoods, so Agarwal et al. compare households that won big prizes with households that won small prizes. They then looked at neighboring households, to ascertain whether envy of the winners’ newfound riches motivated them to spend beyond their means. The authors find that when someone wins a bigger prize, their neighbors start to borrow more, and tend to declare bankruptcy more, compared to people whose neighbors won the smaller prizes. That’s strong evidence that when people’s neighbors start to spend more money, people are motivated to try and spend more to keep up with them, even if doing so comes at the cost of unsustainable borrowing. When they see their lottery-winning neighbors flaunting new cars, home improvements or other conspicuous consumption, the feelings of competitiveness and envy are so strong that they can even overwhelm financial good sense.
Agarwal et al.’s research tends to agree with earlier findings. A 2011 paper by economists Peter Kuhn, Peter Kooreman, Adriaan Soetevent and Arie Kapteyn, for example, found that the neighbors of Dutch lottery winners buy more cars.
This obviously has implications for financial bubbles and the theory of business cycles. If housing bubbles like the one the US had in the mid-2000s act like lotteries — if people who manage to flip their house for a huge gain are like lottery winners, and their neighbors borrow to keep up appearances — then this might be another link between bubbles and debt crises. It’s also another reason to worry about inequality. In the US and many other nations, inequality has risen in recent decades.
A Source of Financial Folly?
This inequality could be motivating Americans to spend more and save less, which increases the risk of debt crises, and also reduces investment and therefore makes future generations poorer. But social preferences also complicate efforts to reduce inequality. The same competitive instinct that applies to lottery winnings may also apply to government transfers. A 2008 paper by economists Manuela Angelucci and Giacomo De Giorgi found that government cash transfers in Mexico increased borrowing and reduced saving among households that didn’t receive the transfers. So the existence of social preferences means that governments should try to design welfare programs that either flow to everyone equally — like universal basic income — or seem fair in some way, such as disability or age-based programs. Otherwise, well-intended redistribution may end up arousing envy among those who don’t receive the checks. In a world of social preferences, everything becomes more complicated. But that appears to be the world we live in, and we must deal with it accordingly.

Iran continues to reap benefits of opportunism and division

Sir John Jenkins/Arab News/June 15/18
A headline on a prominent news site suggested that US President Donald Trump was wrong to make overtures to North Korea about denuclearization because it is a murderous regime that persecutes its people at home and abroad, and has a profoundly destabilizing influence in its region.
I thought the author had a good point. But I wondered why no one had made the same point when Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama made such overtures toward Iran, which behaves similarly to North Korea, and reportedly sought and received Pyongyang’s assistance with its nuclear programs.

I was then amused to see news from Iraq that Muqtada Al-Sadr had announced a political alliance with the Fatah movement of Hadi Ameri, the powerful militia leader and commander of the Badr Organization, which fought alongside Iranian forces during the Iran-Iraq war. This alliance may well form the core of a new Iraqi government.
The problem is that many people interpreted Al-Sadr’s recent election victory as a shift in Iraqi politics away from sectarian and communal power distribution and dependence on Iran, toward more effective national politics — certainly one less subordinate to Iranian interests — that many Iraqis have been seeking for at least a decade.

Anyone who has followed Iraqi politics with any attention would have known that that was a forlorn hope. Iran knows what it wants there, and what it wants — that does not include sharing the region with anyone — it gets, helped by the delusion of some commentators and senior officials that the tide is about to turn, and when it does on their watch they will get the credit.
Meanwhile, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Abadi, whom some diplomats were touting before the elections as yet another savior figure (in a long line starting with the late Ahmad Chalabi), is left waiting for a call from the true power brokers. In Iraq, as in Iran, the people may vote, but they do not get to choose who governs them.

Meanwhile, in Syria there is growing suspicion that US-Turkish maneuvers over the town of Manbij, American support for the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), and threatening Turkish moves against alleged Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) positions in northern Iraq, are becoming part of a bigger deal involving Russia and southwest Syria, where Israel has made clear it will not tolerate an Iranian or Hezbollah presence.
Russia may be trying to stage-manage a situation in which Turkey is allowed to act against PKK-aligned forces along its border, in return for tolerating increased Iranian influence in the same area — where Tehran also has Kurdish concerns — as compensation to the latter for withdrawing (at least for show) from the Suweida area, and therefore lessening the chance of an immediate confrontation with Israel.

There is a common theme in all these stories: Iran gains and the US loses. But assuming all this is accurate, it may be equally true that Iran is being far too clever for its own good, as it was in 1982 when it refused to accept the liberation of the city of Khorramshahr as a signal for the end of the war with Iraq. However, given that all strategy in the Middle East is opportunism, this looks — at least for now — like the sort of hand one would like to be dealt.
Add to the mix Hezbollah’s political entrenchment in Lebanon after the recent elections there, the outmaneuvering of Iranian reformists in the campaign for the speakership of Parliament, and claims that renewed US hostility is creating a nationalist backlash in Iran.
Iran is adept at playing off its enemies against each other: Turkey against the US, Russia against the US and Turkey, the EU against the US, parts of the EU with Russia against the US, others against Turkey, and so on.
Given all this, if you are sitting where Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei sits, you might be congratulating yourself on yet another great escape. Yet there is a problem of cognitive diplomatic dissonance. Many commentators and politicians still think North Korea is bad, but Iran just badly treated.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s recent speech setting out 12 US requirements for Iran was impressive and hard-hitting, and went some way to making the case for the long-term and widely supported strategy of sustained containment and deterrence that we have needed for a decade or more. So did the less-well-reported speech on June 5 by Undersecretary of the Treasury Sigal Mandelker, setting out in detail Iran’s malign financial activities worldwide.
But we still do not have such a strategy, partly because Iran is so adept at playing off its enemies against each other: Turkey against the US, Russia against the US and Turkey, the EU against the US, parts of the EU with Russia against the US, others against Turkey, and so on. It may also be connected to the way the US government’s attention keeps shifting from one thing to another, and to the growing stresses within the EU.

I made these points recently at an academic seminar, and was accused by a fellow European of seeking to exclude Iran from the region. After I recovered from my shock at such a bizarre misrepresentation, I pointed out the difference between containment/deterrence and exclusion. But it made me wonder about the determination some people have, particularly on the European left, to see Tehran as a partner of choice in the region, against all the evidence of the structural hostility toward them from key parts of Iran’s government and security and intelligence forces.
In any case, we have not seen such a policy pursued with sufficient, sustained international backing since around 2011, when the achievement of the nuclear deal became the major — if not the sole — goal of the US and the EU in their approach to Iran.

So that leaves us with the task of continuing publicly to explain why such an approach is reasonable. I do not believe we should abandon the nuclear deal. Nor do I think we should shout from the rooftops that we want to see regime-change in Iran, or list in public the steps we are about to take to increase pressure on Tehran.
We should instead use the time that the deal bought us to coordinate more targeted political pressure, physical pushback where international law allows, sustained and targeted measures to prevent global financial systems being corrupted or used to finance terror, and construct effective partnerships within and outside the region to constrain Iran, punish its malign actions and reward its constructive ones.
Whatever the EU may like to claim, it still needs US leadership. You can only work with what you have got. As always, there is work to be done in Washington.
• Sir John Jenkins is a senior fellow at Policy Exchange. Until December 2017, he was Corresponding Director (Middle East) at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), based in Manama, Bahrain, and was a Senior Fellow at Yale University’s Jackson Institute for Global Affairs. He was the British ambassador to Saudi Arabia until January 2015.

Can Turkish-Iranian cooperation work against PKK?
Sinem Cengiz//Arab News/June 15/18
Turkish officials recently stated that they were talking with their Iranian counterparts about a military offensive against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). Militants from the group are dispersed across the northern Iraqi region of Qandil. The offer of cooperation received a positive response from Tehran. “We are in contact with Iran,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on June 13. “PKK is a threat to them as well. Qandil is a very close to the Iranian border…we will improve cooperation with Iran.”
Two days earlier, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared that Turkey had launched military operations to eliminate PKK, targeting its headquarters in the Qandil mountain region and in the Sinjar province of Iraq, and that 20 fighter jets had destroyed 14 PKK targets in the region. Ankara began preparations in early March for a large-scale operation against the terrorists scattered across the region, with special forces and scores of troops deployed on the difficult terrain to set up regional bases. Turkey now has 11 bases and more than 2,000 troops in Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq to carry out an assault against the terrorist group.

Turkey is mired in a bloody war domestically against the PKK and its Syrian offshoots, the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its armed wing, the People’s Protection Forces (YPG). Last year, meanwhile, the Kurdistan Free Life Party (PJAK), an offshoot of PKK in northwest Iran, attacked Iranian border guards near the city of Urmiya, killing two and wounding seven. Iran is concerned that PJAK is a threat not only to the territorial integrity and national security of Iran, in the same way that PKK poses a threat to Turkey, but also to Iraq and Syria. Both Turkey and Iran are aware that separatist campaigns have been ramped up in these volatile times. They are rightly concerned that the extraordinary regional turmoil could fuel Kurdish fantasies of independence.
The Turkish-Iranian relationship is best described as “bitter frenemies,” based on temporary cooperation and tacit tensions.

Ankara and Tehran even cooperated in building a 144 km wall, with towers and iron fences, along the Turkey-Iran border to block the movement of PKK militants based in Iraq’s Qandil mountains bordering Iran and Turkey, and to prevent PKK and PJAK from smuggling arms to one another. In addition, Turkish and Iranian intelligence agents, along with Iraqi counterparts, took joint action against PKK in November 2017, targeting positions in northern Iraq.

Ankara hinted that both Iraq and Iran have given a green light to Turkish operations and are ready to throw their support behind the country’s forces. The Iranian support is highly significant, moreso than that from Iraq, especially in terms of intelligence. Iran is one of the main countries in the Middle East involved in proxy wars and intelligence gathering to aid its regional aspirations. It is no secret that Iranian military advisers have played a vital role in challenging the Syrian groups fighting against the regime of Bashar Assad in Syria, and in supporting Hezbollah in Lebanon, proving that Iran could extend its support to its regional allies and engage in regional conflicts.

However, what kind of a support Iran will give to Turkey is yet to become clear. Historically, although threatened by PJAK, Iran did not hesitate to support PKK’s aggression against Turkey to curb Ankara’s influence in the region.
As Robert Kaplan, an American author specializing in politics, foreign affairs and travel, said: “The Turkish-Iranian relationship is among the most complex of civilizational rivalries.” They are neither allies nor open enemies. In recent decades, the Turkish-Iranian relationship is best described as “bitter frenemies,” based on temporary cooperation and tacit tensions.

However, it would not be wrong to say that we are witnessing an era in which Turkish-Iranian cooperation in the region is greater than ever before. Ankara and Tehran have been strengthening relations at a growing pace in Syria. Both countries have been part of the Astana peace process, with Russia, since early 2017, and the Syrian National Dialogue Congress. The presidents of the two countries meet more than once in a year, as a sign of the increasing cooperation.

While Iran and Russia are working with Turkey in the Astana process to find a solution to the problems in Syria, particularly humanitarian issues and the formation of de-escalation zones, PKK has demonstrated its position by closely allying itself with Iran’s enemies, namely the US and Israel. Both Ankara and Tehran are angered by the US arming of the PYD, which Washington considers a partner in Syria. PYD has also drawn Iranian Kurds to its ranks, which is something closely monitored by Tehran with some concern.

Aware of all the balances in the region, Ankara implied that Iran should do more to support Turkey since the PKK and its wings are an existential threat to them both.
Needless to say, Turkey’s regional geopolitics and its cooperation with Iran will have a significant effect on Kurdish separatism. Both Turkey and Iran need collective security cooperation to defeat terrorism in the region. This would only be possible if Iran takes sincere steps as a neighbor not only when it is threatened, but for the sake of the stability and security of its neighbors — Iraq, Turkey and Syria — and the wider region.
• Sinem Cengiz is a Turkish political analyst who specializes in Turkey’s relations with the Middle East.
Twitter: @SinemCngz

Senior Iraqi legislators turn against the parliament
Adnan Hussein/Al Arabiya/June 15/18
In an unprecedented move, senior, and not junior, Iraqi parliamentarians have objected, appealed and protested against the results of Iraqi parliamentary elections. These senior figures are the highly influential members of the Iraqi Parliament and of the entire political process.
They come from a cross-section of Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish political parties and groups chosen by the United States and Britain before the overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003 to rule Iraq on the grounds that they represent the basic constituents of the society, Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds.
As for junior parliamentarians, they come from political parties and groups that came into existence after the fall of Saddam's regime but stayed outside political dynamics. Their role was defined as being a complementary adjunct to the political process that was described as democratic, but was not so in reality.
What happened in the Iraqi Parliament is an attempted coup plotted by the seniors who have been toppled by the recent elections. It is a coup that has not completed yet
Vestiges of a flawed system
Since the first elections of the post-Saddam era in early 2006, electoral laws, the law of the High Electoral Commission and provisions of the constitution have been violated. There has also been an increase in cases of fraud. In fact some of the officials of the Commission have testified in this regard. The seniors have been behind most of this as they were the only ones who had the power to influence and garner money. They divided state positions among themselves under the system of sectarian and national quotas, which sustained the biggest administrative and financial corruption system in the region and one of the largest in the entire world.
International organizations such as Transparency International were not the only ones who conceded this fact. In fact, senior political figures have repeatedly acknowledged the existence of corruption in state and society. The heads of Iraqi governments appointed by the senior parliamentarians have emphasized that they will work hard to fight corruption in their governments and make it a priority but this never happened.
From a constitutional point of view, the Commission was described as “independent” along with ten other bodies but this wasn’t really the case since the seniors held very firm to dividing posts in these commissions and their supreme councils in the same way state positions and functions have been divided. Specific parties controlled these commissions from the very beginning, and dividing posts and jobs mainly happened through the Parliament which is dominated by these seniors; as such commissions were under its supervision and control, and had no independence at all.
Opposition to reforms
The juniors of the political process, those who succeeded in having their representatives in the Parliament or failed, have maintained the need to respect the impartiality of these "independent" bodies, especially the Electoral Commission, as it is the most important body that guarantees that the electoral process is not manipulated. This demand has been at the center of the protest movements witnessed by Iraq since February 2011. But the seniors were not interested in this so they have always opposed amending the electoral and the commission laws to guarantee fair and transparent elections run by an independent commission. As a matter of fact, an MP representing of one of these senior parties (an influential Shiite party) told the media once that the quota system “was built to stay and had become a reality.”
Before the elections last month, demands to form an independent commission and amend the electoral law were made again. However, the seniors turned down these demands and they formed the current Commission themselves and under the same quota system. They even refused to grant the judiciary partial representation in the Commission to supervise the elections. They also refused to postpone elections for some time especially since the country has just emerged out of its devastating war against ISIS. Many cities and towns were destroyed and people have been displaced. Hundreds of thousands are in camps and many of them thus had no chance to finish the paperwork required to vote.
The election brought shocking results for the senior politicians, even though such an outcome was expected outside their close circles. Following the results, they made a volte face of 180 degrees and have started working on annulling election results and overthrowing the commission. Earlier in June, 170 MPs, who mostly lost in the recent elections, quickly met to change the election law and annul the announced results of the electronic system - the same electronic system that these members were once enthusiastic about! They decided on manual recount of the votes along with annulment of the results of overseas voting in camps and the exceptional voting in Kurdistan region.
Disillusioned electorate
This is happening while the Parliament is in recess and is about to finish its term because powerful forces have suffered a decline in their representation in the new Parliament. Some of the big figures failed to secure a seat in Parliament, and this is mainly because Iraqi voters have lost confidence in them.
This was expected as these forces were not able to keep their position when they are responsible for the real disaster that Iraq witnessed four years ago, which is the ISIS occupation of a third of Iraq's territory. Almost all Iraqi families were tragically affected by this event either during the invasion or in the nearly three-year war to vanquish this terrorist organization and expel its elements from Iraq. These powers couldn’t have enjoyed the respect of Iraqis while administrative and financial corruption are at its peak along with poverty, unemployment and the fall of public service system, which led to a new wave of protests in recent days in many provinces. What happened in the Iraqi Parliament is an attempted coup plotted by the seniors who have been toppled by the recent elections. It is a coup that has not completed yet. There are also those who refused, objected and filed complaints at the electoral legal body and the Federal Court, objecting to the legality and constitutionality of what the Parliament did. Whatever the fate of the objections and appeals, the final result will only make Iraqis less confident in the political process. The recent elections reflect this collapse, with the poor voter turnout at a mere 55 per cent, and the toppling of many known figures from the elections. BLURB: Senior politicians have always opposed amending the electoral and the Commission laws to guarantee fair and transparent elections run by an independent commission.

Is it a case of now or never for Pakistan’s Imran Khan?
Syed Jawaid Iqbal/Al Arabiya/June 15/18
Much against expectations, Imran Khan or his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) are not yet making a big bang. It seems everyone in the PTI camp is complacent and no one is bothering about the tactics and strategies that could be adopted in the next elections.
Does that mean Imran Khan as the next prime minister of the country is a foregone conclusion? If that is so, how will Imran and the PTI achieve this objective? For all intents and purposes not even an outline of a “shadow government” has been seen so far. Many important developments have taken place in the country. Most importantly, the outgoing government announced a federal budget which would impact Pakistan’s financial future for the coming years but the PTI has so far only made the usual noises about it and has not come forward with concrete financial proposals of its own.
PTI and Imran Khan himself have made claims that they have everything sorted out and when they come to power, they will have a competent team handling the country’s affairs. None of that has come to the fore as of now. Even decision-making in the party, as was evident in PTI suggesting names for appointment of Punjab’s interim chief minister, is not on firm grounds. Then, where is the party manifesto? For a party that claims to have a capable think-tank, they should have worked on it much in advance and released it now or even earlier. Perhaps Imran Khan’s talk of what PTI plans to do in the first 100 days after it comes into power, based on the issues and problems that the country faces, is its manifesto.
It is through its performance in its first 100 days of power that the PTI plans to take Pakistan forward. Even then, there is a lack of confidence evident in the body language of Imran Khan and his team. Their convictions are somehow not coming through. They are also faced with serious challenges on many fronts. There is the challenge of non-delivery of promises that were in 2013 elections, most of whom were not met.
Good work has been done in the health and police sectors in the Khaibar Pakhtoon Khwa (KPK), the province where his party is in power, but other subjects remain ignored. In fact, Pervez Khattak, a PTI die-hard who served as Chief Minister of KPK, has been charged with corruption and nepotism and has many things to answer for. Imran Khan must be given credit that he has continued to raise a voice for the rule of justice in Pakistan and has also succeeded in putting Nawaz Sharif on the mat
Wife attack
Imran’s second former wife Reham Khan plans to publish her so-called autography very soon. If she does so and even if the book talks about the personal relations that existed between the couple while they were married, the material would again negatively impact Imran Khan’s political objectives. It seems while Reham is disillusioned with Imran’s political views and plans to talk about these in her book. Recently, the PTI issued election tickets and it transpired that many old workers of the party, some even founders, were left out and new faces were chosen to contest elections. Whether this was because of lack of confidence about their winning capability or electability of the new entrants is still unclear. Does this represent the slogan of “tabdeeli” (change) that Imran Khan and his party have touted all along? If his purpose is to get into the parliament on the back of electable candidates and it does not really matter to him if these people subscribe to any change in Pakistan then perhaps it would be correct to say that the champion of change has deviated from his original approach just to get power. Imran Khan must be given credit that he has continued to raise a voice for the rule of justice in Pakistan and has also succeeded in putting Nawaz Sharif on the mat. It is hoped that Imran’s stance on the rule of law will continue and his approach will not change even when he comes to power. This was not evident in the KPK when PTI was running the government but this fact should not be treated as an indication of the future.
There are signs that this time around, the PTI will not have such a clean sailing in the KPK as it did in 2013 and other contenders, mainly the religious parties, would also give a strong showing. In Punjab province, PML (N) is likely to emerge as a prominent player even though Nawaz Sharif would not be in the fray. PTI here would only succeed in making partial inroads.
The PTI’s main battleground would be Punjab and the KPK to some extent. Imran Khan’s effective weapon in all provinces will be youth who still believe in him and are confident he will deliver. Imran is expected to get good support from the youth since more than 20 million young individuals have crossed the age of 18 and have become eligible voters. They are unlikely to vote for the old tried and tested politicians. In the final analysis, Imran’s PTI may not win a clear majority in the National Assembly and will probably settle for a coalition. This will create a weak government and perhaps it will be in the future interest of Pakistan since the powers that be will then be able to formulate a long-term agenda.

Israel, Jordan fear escalation as Russia seeks provincial division in Syria
Shehab Al-Makahleh/Al Arabiya/June 15/18
The recent trouble in Jordan would pave the way for the Syrian army and its allies to move South West of Syria to regain control over the provinces of Dera’a, Suwaida and Qunaitra. The three governorates are on the triangle of Jordan, Syria and Israel.
But the question is why would Syria, Russia and Iran push to restore these areas in the coming period? Benefitting from the ramifications of the economic hardships in Jordan, the Syrian army would direct the forces to regain control of these provinces and to impose a de facto policy on Jordan. The target is not Jordan but rather the Golan Heights which Israel has planned to create a buffer zone in the Syrian territories guarded by Syrian opposition (Free Syrian Army) since the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), which was established by on May 31, 1974 to execute Resolution 338 of 1973, calls for immediate ceasefire between Israel and Syria. When the Syrian war started in 2011, the buffer zone between Syria and Israel became a bloody scene due to clashes in Qunaitra province between the Syrian army and the armed opposition. This prompted the UN to reconsider the safety of its mission by pulling them out. Thus, Israel has benefited from this withdrawal and created the buffer zone with Syria.
The opposition troops in this triangle are considered by many countries as moderate and adequate. However, since the Syrian troops are pushing South West to pave the way for opening borders with Jordan, this move would be risky to Jordan at this time as Jordan is passing through economic challenges.
Netanyahu’s success in convincing US administration to tear the nuclear deal has not been without a cost because this has driven Israeli army to develop a strategy to counter Iranian military presence near its borders
Russia’s call
When the Russian government announced the need for foreign troops to pull out of South West of Syria, this of course includes Iranian and American troops as well. Yet, some have interpreted this statement as a tactic by Russia to help jettison other foreign forces except Russian which has two bases in Syria: A maritime base in Tartous and an airbase in Lattakia.
Russia is trying to divide the south into two parts based on a regional agreement with countries such as Jordan and Israel, where the Free Syrian Army in Dera’a has recently moved from neighboring villages.
A Russian plan to remove Free Syrian Army fighters from the province of Dera’a and the borders of Naseeb-Jaber (the crossing point with Jordan) in full is on in order to reopen the crossing in the coming weeks after reconstruction of the major buildings in Naseeb, which will be under the supervision of the Syrian army and the government’s security.
If this is achieved in the coming few weeks, the Jordanian talk about a 40-kilometer-long safe zone from the Golan Heights to the city of Nawa in Dera’a may have been viable and conducive to rehabilitate crossing points on the Syrian side.
Recent visits of Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman and other security officials to Moscow reflect that Tel Aviv is considering three measures in Syria: a grand strategy, a scenario and a tactic.
The grand strategy started already with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s call for ripping off the nuclear deal between the G-5 and Iran. He succeeded to convince the American President Donald Trump to pull out of the deal and impose further sanctions on Iran to weaken Iranian presence in Syria.
Netanyahu’s success in convincing the American administration to tear the nuclear deal has not been without a cost because this has driven the Israeli army to develop an offensive strategy to counter Iranian military presence near its borders, as Tel Aviv considers Iranian troops a strategic challenge.
According to Israeli intelligence sources, the war in Syria is far from over and since Israelis believe that Iran has emerged as the big winner in this war, the atmosphere will not be easy for Israelis.
As generals of the Israeli army acknowledge that it is the first time since 70 years that the State of Israel faces an existential threat which would lead to a war because Iran would speed up the pace to assemble the atomic bomb and produce it to be among the big five in Asia along with North Korea, Pakistan, Israel, India and China.
Israel and NATO
This leads to the scenario, which is forming an Israeli alliance with the NATO. This has been clear when Israeli troops have recently joined the NATO forces in military drills in Poland and the Baltic States, near Russian borders.
Israel which is a non-NATO member is taking part in these drills for the first time with hundreds of Israeli paratroopers. This is a message from Israel to Russia to exercise pressure on Iran to pull out its troops if not from all Syria, from South West of the country, which borders Israel and Jordan.
Such a scenario is not easy to forecast because of the many objectives each NATO country has in terms of military drills near Russia at a time the country is hosting the World Cup 2018. Is the message directed to Russia’s leadership not to interfere in Europe? It is a message for Moscow to contain Iran and its expansionist policies in Syria? Is it both?
As per the tactical dimension, the ramifications for Israel to go into direct war with Iran is unexpected at the time being though there would be skirmishes by the borders to start an attrition war against the Israeli army.
The tactical part is also by the Russian and Syrian troops on Jordan to drive Amman to interfere because the kingdom has good relations with the opposition in Dera’a and Suwaida. In other words, the Russian-Syrian pressure will also be on Jordan to convince the Syrian armed opposition in the three provinces to hand over their arms and surrender to the Syrian army or to face death.
Of course, Jordan would favor the first option in order to avoid any clashes that would lead to the influx of thousands of Syrian refugees to cross the border to the Jordanian territory. This will add salt to its economic pains. Syrian army has mobilized more than 40,000 troops to the war in Dera’a province. Thus, Jordan’s woes and afflictions have become apparent at a time the country is undergoing serious economic crisis.
The same applies to Israel, which fears the progress of Syrian troops toward Qunaitra with Russian surveillance since this would force the Free Syrian Army fighters to retreat to Israeli borders.

Using soft power to isolate Iran supporters
Mohammed Al Shaikh/Al Arabiya/June 15/18
It is expected that there will be celebrations, such as music concerts, to mark Eid El Fitr. These celebrations might even extend throughout the whole summer vacation in different places in Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain.
Lebanon is now occupied and controlled by the abhorrent Persian enemy through Hezbollah which about 50% of the Lebanese people voted for or for its supporters in the recent elections. Thus we have to use our soft power to confront it and those who supported it on all levels. I am certain that if we had made our soft power effective much earlier, this evil terrorist group would not have been this powerful. I’ve noticed that there are some artists who work in the entertainment industry in Lebanon who publicly support this Persian group. They shamelessly support it then prepare to hold concerts and events in the Gulf region, specifically in Saudi Arabia after it has opened up as well as in the UAE and Bahrain to make plenty of money that’s much more than what they make in their country that has low financial capabilities.
We must also note that our satellite channels today are almost dominating the Arab media, and every artist is seeking our content because they know that being famous and a star comes with the use of these channels
Opportunists and the entertainment business
Most of these artists seek popularity so if they feel that they will be boycotted if they support Iran or its affiliates, they will change their position drastically. Such a firm and important approach is called soft power in international relations and it’s used cleverly by developed countries and sometimes it achieves much more than what hard power can achieve. Let these opportunists hold their parties in Tehran, so that they would know that almost no one would attend their concerts. The question is why do we allow these opportunists to gain a lot of money from us during their concerts at night so they can transfer them to our existential enemy Iran during the day? Doesn’t this reflect our naivety in dealing with them? We must also note that our satellite channels today are almost dominating the Arab media, and every artist is seeking our content because they know that being famous and a star comes with the use of these channels. We are in fierce war with the Persian enemy and its supporters, and it would be our loss if we do not use the soft power in our fateful war against it.
We are in a real need to activate our artistic superiority to serve our causes. There is no doubt coordination between Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain in this regard will make us more powerful and more capable of increasing pressure. We would see the result of this quickly in a way that would make these artists compete to satisfy us and abandon Hezbollah affiliates out of fear of being blacklisted, which they would escape from as if they are running from a lion.